Release Date: 30th March 2018
Label: A-F Records
This time last year nobody had heard of Spanish Love Songs. Not even a hint of their strange name could be found anywhere in the wider music press. After getting together through an ad on Craigslist, the group issued Giant Sings The Blues in 2015 to little fanfare and immediately set out to play as many shows as possible to anyone who would listen. This bought them a small but dedicated fanbase across the US, finding a midpoint between The Wonder Years and The Menzingers and injecting a more ‘lived-in’ feel to this winning formula. Written over the course of 6 months while frontman Dylan Slocum was away for a job, Schmaltz was born out of the uncertainty of leaving your 20s behind and having no idea what you’re doing with your life.
The most immediate thing about this record is the lyrical content. It’s almost impossible to separate it from its own narrative, a narrative so gut-wrenchingly honest that it’s easy to find yourself replaying tracks to catch every last drop of raw emotion. Each individual song works as a snippet of an ordinary man’s self-loathing and confusion bundled up into short bursts of melodic punk genius. The most impressive thing about Schmaltz is that Slocum has managed to write something both specific and detailed about his own experiences, while at the same time feeling widely relatable in its delivery and context. In ‘The Boy Considers His Haircut’ he issues the immortal, awe-inspiring verse:
“I want to wake up and maybe be better, I want to come through and not be second guessed, I want to find the money to fix my nose, And learn to breathe without pacing, I don’t want to be depressed. I want to find a haircut that fits me, That hasn’t been co-opted by Nazis, I’ll settle for some rest, I want to move on, I want to feel more important, I’m trying to be fine, I swear I’m trying to be my best”.
Thankfully, proceedings never devolve into solo project territory as the rest of the band contribute a fantastic sense of energy and power throughout. This is demonstrated perfectly in the transition between ‘Nuevo’ and ‘Sequels, Remakes, & Adaptations’ where the tempo suddenly ramps up and rattles along in true punk fashion like somebody hit a musical nitro button. Another brilliant facet of Spanish Love Songs’ arsenal is their knack for segueing into uplifting, heart stopping bridge sections. This skill shines across every track but most notably in ‘Bellyache’ and ‘Joana, in Five Acts’, the latter featuring the ultimate build-and-release dynamic topped with an incredible guitar solo propelling it into an intoxicating emotional climax.
Although everything is governed by traditional rock instrumentation, the dark horse and secret weapon of Schmaltz comes in the form of Meredith Van Woert and her quirky, yet understated use of the keyboards. This may seem like a strange combination on the surface, but her sublime melodies weave themselves into the very fabric of each song, brimming with personality while only seeking to compliment the fundamentals of each track.
As a reviewer it’s difficult for me to separate myself from this record and be truly objective about its merits and pitfalls. I discovered this release at a time where I needed to hear it most and, on first listen, was genuinely moved in a way that I haven’t been by long-form music in some time. The true power of Schmaltz comes in it’s emotional appeal, similar to that of Touche Amore, even if you can’t directly relate to the stories and events being presented, it will make you FEEL like you can. The fact that this is the band’s second offering points only to bigger and better things in the future, it would be crazy to think that music this honest and energetic wouldn’t resonate with a far larger audience. Spanish Love Songs have quietly created one of the best straight-up punk albums in recent memory, blasting you with gritty down-to-earth songwriting and an overwhelming sense of passion. Another release of this quality could see them becoming a prominent act in the modern scene and recognised as one of the greats in years to come. Watch this space…
Recommended Track: ‘Joana, in Five Acts’