Published Feb 06, 2020Los Angeles punk band Spanish Love Songs started making a bit of a stir in 2018 with their second album, Schmaltz, a viscerally candid record that agonized over guilt, self-doubt and internalized anxiety. It was fairly derivative of most Pennsylvania pop punk, but it had promise.
With their third album, Spanish Love Songs have met their potential. Brave Faces Everyone is a huge leap from their earlier work, enough to overcome those comparisons. The band have put a lot of work into refining their sound and making it bigger, fuller and bolder. There's more harmony, texture and structure in every song, and the choruses are huge and uplifting.
The most fundamental change of approach is the outward focus of these songs, with singer Dylan Slocum turning his confessional style into a rallying cry. At some point in the last two years, he decided it's more useful to write music as a form of group therapy than it is to use it as an opportunity to vent. Rather than scrawling in a notebook, he's in a conversation — the kind you have with a close friend on your walk home from the bar, when you're both tipsy and tired enough to wonder what's the point of all this. It's not "woe is me," anymore. It's "woe is us."
"Losers" is an essay on millennial life, capturing a generation's discontent in a way that's bleak, but also makes you feel emboldened — like you're part of something. Slocum sings about the human consequences of precarious employment, wealth disparity and housing unaffordability; he takes aim at the deadly peril of the U.S. health-care system and all those brainless think-pieces about how millennials killed the "power lunch" or whatever. "We're mediocre / We're losers, forever," he sings, hoping to overcome disadvantage with the power of team spirit. "The cost of living means the cost to stay alive," he summarizes later on the followup, "Losers, Pt. 2."
Brave Faces Everyone toils in debt and death, touching on mental illness, the opioid crisis, mass shootings, climate change and other 21st century concerns. This album turns disillusionment into an anthem, urging you to join in singing each song with every shred of yourself. This is a record for young people living in overpriced apartments, spending the hours scrolling through their Twitter feeds and learning about the latest environmental disaster, the latest war in the Middle East, the latest gun massacre. It offers comfort without escapism.
By the time the title track closes things out, Slocum comes to realize that maybe things have always been bad. "Living paycheque to paycheque / Like my parents / And their parents / And their parents before them," he sings. "We were never broken / Life's just very long." The central philosophy of Brave Faces Everyone is that things are bad and there's no clear way of making them better, so all you can really do is brace yourself for whatever comes next. It's not an album about thriving. It's about just trying to get by — together. (Pure Noise)