Spanish Love Songs – ‘Brave Faces Etc’

By Andy Joice

When Spanish Love Songs released their 2020 album, ‘Brave Faces Everyone’, we started our review with the line “Look, we get it. The world has gone to shit.” Little did we know, just a few weeks later, it was going to get worse. With live music put on hold for 18 months, many bands, Spanish Love Songs included, had to source another revenue stream to keep themselves afloat. Heavily leaning into their fanbase, they invested time into a fervent Patreon community, with perks including monthly cover tracks as voted for by their community, as well as re-imaginings current tracks. Perhaps it’s this and the need to remain creative to stave off the onset of pandemic induced anxiety that helped facility ‘Brave Faces Etc.’, a reimagining of ‘Brave Faces Everyone’.

Where ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ has a grittier edge, ‘Etc.’ is far more mellow. The beauty of Spanish Love Songs is their lyrical content, every track laced with deep motifs of angst, heartbreak and the aching pains of growing older. And while these subjects are masterfully dealt with in the original full band versions, there’s something about the composition on ‘Etc.’ that leads it to a more mature, heartfelt and, ultimately, realistic conclusion.

Take ‘Generation Loss’ for example. Gone is the quick tempo, the strained, soaring choruses and the upbeat melodies, replaced with slower, harmonious vocals. Choral moans layer over the dreamy piano, creating such a depth that it can be felt in the marinara trench.

‘Routine Pain’ and ‘Beachfront Property’ are far more reserved, with slow strokes of synths built on top of acoustic strumming. Dylan Slocum’s normally vibrato heavy vocals are toned back, giving a more emotive delivery.

Although the lyrics haven’t changed, they certainly hit heavier. The social commentary within ‘Kick’ and ‘Optimism (As a Radical Life Choice)’ feeling weightier, more desperate for understanding and infinitely more heartfelt. Spanish Love Songs have always been the poets for the angsty 30-somethings, and while it may have been easy to miss the depth of their prose in their previous releases, the slower instrumentation really does give them the clarity they deserve.

Closing with ‘Brave Faces, Everyone’, it encompasses all aspects from the previous songs – gentle beat, pensive piano chords, and Slocum’s fragility caressing the lyrics with tenderness but its relatability is almost painful, particularly in this current climate. Like a hug that’s slightly too tight, its embrace is both nurturing and aching in equal measure.

This isn’t necessarily an album that will attract new fans to Spanish Love Songs – certainly not people who are already into alternative music. What this may do, however, is broaden their outreach to fans of a softer, lofi, ambient sound. It’s atmospheric, bordering on haunting at points, and lends itself to the fragility and emotional resonance of the lyrics. This is a band who’ve consistently been called ‘mid-west emo’, yet they’re pushing such an emotive and experimental sound, you could barely believe they’re the same group of people.

This is absolutely an album you should listen to, regardless of your general tastes. Serene, touching and powerful, it’s an unexpected album of the year candidate that deserves full attention. ‘Brave Faces Etc’ proves that not only can a leopard change its sports, it can change its entire identity.

ANDY JOICE

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