Spanish Prisoners, Songs to Forget

Spanish Prisoners, Songs to Forget

Leonid Maymind has done some traveling in his day. Born in Latvia and having lived in various parts of the U.S. from New Orleans to New York, the now-Brooklynite makes music that changes genre as often as he has changed addresses. Maymind is at the center of the musical constellation known as Spanish Prisoners, a collective with contributors from bands such as Pedro the Lion and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. Spanish Prisoners’ debut album Songs to Forget is a genre-hopper that hints at a wealth of potential from Maymind in the years to come. From indie-rock to neo-country, psychedelia to blues, and garage rock to pop, Spanish Prisoners’ stylistic restlessness makes for an album full of ideas that hit more often than they miss.

The album’s second song, “Some Among Them Are Killers,” is one of two clear single candidates, the other being track seven “Dear Just Curious.” The former sports a catchy electronic drum beat and paranoid lyrics made all the more daunting by Maymind’s endearingly insecure and sincere voice and the chorus’s sinister distorted guitar lines. While the song does veer off into a clich├ęd bridge that breaks its momentum, it quickly finds its way back to the chorus and a satisfying conclusion.

As stated before, “Dear Just Curious” is the other single candidate on the album, a pop song with a sort of Spanish (get it?) sound to it thanks to minor chords and the guiro (the percussive instrument that makes that scraping noise; I didn’t know what it was, either). Its marketability, however, is unfortunately due more to its polished sound than actual catchiness. While it isn’t a bad song by any means, it is one of the more easy songs to forget (I know, I know) when put up against the energetic Pavement homage “A Thousand Zimmermans” and the bluesy, garage rock swagger of “Periwinkle Blues.”

Maymind shows his prowess as a songwriter by being just as effective and affecting in the albums tender moments as he is in its intense ones. “Song For The Weary” has the familiar sound of a country gospel standard that he makes his own by using pollination as a sugary metaphor for lost love — “I was a once a flower / and you were the bee” and “but after drinking my nectar / how soon did you flee.” “Mantequilla” conjures images of young love and paints this picture with passionate violin and steel guitar, soft cymbal crashes, delicate acoustic guitar strums, and twinkling xylophone.

After a debut as solid but scattered as Songs to Forget, the listener is left wondering what will be next for Spanish Prisoners. With the myriad genres in which Maymind has shown himself to be proficient, will the next album see him narrowing the scope as the band continues to define itself? Given the band’s collaborative aesthetic, who will be performing with Maymind, as the names Spanish Prisoners supports continue to become more and more recognizable? It’s hard to say this early in the band’s career, but one thing is certain: those who keep an eye and ear on Spanish Prisoners in the coming years will be rewarded.

(Exit Stencil Recordings -- 6205 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, OH. 44102; http://www.exitstencil.org/; Spanish Prisoners -- http://www.spanishprisoners.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008. Filed under Reviews.

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One Response to “Spanish Prisoners, Songs to Forget

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » SXSW Overflow: Day Five (The Back Pockets, The Ugly Club, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Andy D, & More) on March 13th, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    […] behold, I did — many, many moons ago, we reviewed Leo Maymind & co.’s 2008 release Songs to Forget, and writer Wes found it pretty […]

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