Spanish Prisoners – Songs to Forget

Spanish Prisoners
Songs to Forget

Spanish Prisoners is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, Leonid Maymind. Maymind writes all of the music, sings and is credited as the “main orchestrator of the music collective, Spanish Prisoners.” The Brooklyn, NY-based band have released their debut album, Songs to Forget — oh what a silly name! — and it is a respectable debut.

The cheery sounding, “Where God Does his Laundry,” is a throwback to yesteryear where music was easily made and entirely joyful. Its dashes of environmental sounds (cars passing, people walking) alleviate the song’s lyrical seriousness. If the “la la las” aren’t proof enough that Maymind doesn’t take himself seriously, I don’t know what is.

The album follows a steady rate from here, never pushing the boundaries of music that Maymind has set up; this is simple music that should take little effort to enjoy. Maymind’s quivering, hesitant singing tenderly fulfills songs like “Dear Just Curious” and “Song for the Weary.” The latter is a banjo-driven song that sounds as if it was recorded in the back of a saloon, way after closing time. An accordion flails away as people come and go, while the singers belt out their vocals.

It’s evident that Maymind has chosen to keep things simple on this debut and it works well for him. The effortless drum work, subtle strings and gentle, well-crafted simplicity are nice moves that all work in enlivening the music, rather than burdening it. Maymind possesses the pop sensibilities and life experiences to deliver significant songs but that depth is repeatedly lost in the music’s straightforwardness.

The music to “This is not That” is meandering and lifeless and just when you think it will be one of those “forgettable songs”, a guitar line that eerily resembles Santana appears and saves it from dying away. The next song, “Mantequilla,” is a sunny, poppy, love song that truly places the attention on all of Maymind’s strengths. Light touches of shivering strings, glockenspiel, a hollow guitar and adoring lyrics like “And I don’t need nobody, nobody else’s arms” aid in creating one of the better songs on the albums. When the band tries to branch out, like on the boisterous, “A Thousand Zimmermans,” it fails; Maymind unfortunately tries to do much more than his voice permits.

The album’s closer, “Ballad of an Unfolding,” is Maymind attempting to bring out his inner Elliott Smith. The gloomy chords and spectral singing deliver a melancholy and depressing listen. The lyrics are reflective, detailing a betrayal in Maymind’s life. He does an effective job of matching the lyrics to the music and it ultimately works, it’s just too bad it brings down the album’s overall mood.

Maymind and Co. have succeeded in making a decent album. It’s by no means groundbreaking, but this is the kind of music that will attract fans of any kind of pop/rock music.