When each word uttered carries the weight of a ten tonne brick, it’s astonishing that singing along to Schmaltz can leave you with the feeling of being weightless. Every syllable crafted for maximum impact while simultaneously feeling like a throwaway thought from singer Dylan Slocum. Schmaltz dissects a man’s precarious mental health and his place in life, through songs that resonate as though they were written about your own lowest points, presented in choruses as big as The Wonder Years at their very best.
Whereas most albums that touch on such hard topics intertwine them with moments that remind you to keep hope, Schmaltz is anchored in reality. Why write songs on how things will get better when you simply don’t believe that they will? We don’t always have the answers, we don’t all have it figured out. There’s a dichotomy in the way that this album lifts you up so high just to crush you with painfully helpless lyricism. A strangeness in how songs focus on unfathomable problems and make you feel as though they belong to you. ‘The Boy Considers His Haircut’ is the pinnacle of this as Slocum weaves in the line “I wanna find a haircut that fits me that hasn’t been co-opted by nazis,” as if it’s kind of problem we all share. It’s uncomfortable and strange, it’s the reason that this isn’t a record defined by sadness, but its relatability.
Those with preconceived notions of this kind of emotional pop-punk as lacking substance, of being sad for sad’s sake, are almost encouraged to scoff at lines like “Maybe I should learn to love myself, it always feels better staying down” on ‘It’s Not Interesting’. But the magic is in the delivery: the band don’t live in slow melancholia, in fact the record feels most comfortable when laid down by uplifting punk guitars and thumping drums. There’s a certain weight associated with being sad that Spanish Love Songs avoid through how unafraid they are to hit that euphoric guitar solo on ‘Joanna, In Five Acts’, or include the vocal slippage at the beginning of ‘El Niño Considers His Failures’. Despite this, everything circles back to lyricism on Schmaltz. Each line is received like an old friend upon delivery, carrying its own weight, story, personality and distinction. Nothing blends into one or gets forgotten. The “I took 45 steps today, couch to bathroom to kitchen to couch” that explodes at the start of ‘Beer & NyQuil (Hold It Together)’ would be the highlight of every other 2018 album of a similar vein. However it meets its match through the constant eruptions of one liners that greet the album such as “I don’t think I could fix this if I found God” on ‘Bellyache’ or the many bridges that bubble up until there’s nothing to do but burst.
“You might wake up, but you’ll never be better. You might come through but you’ll always second guess. You might be free but you’ll never stop pacing. You might find love but you’ll always be depressed. You might change your hair but you’ll always look awkward. Your back might heal but you’ll never get your rest. And you might move on but you’ll never feel important. You might be fine but you’ll never be your best.”
Once this albums grabs you, it’s impossible to separate yourself from it. Schmaltz will be there when you need it most, it will be the friendly face that lets you know you’re not alone, the relief through euphoric singalong moments, and the voice of reason when you don’t know where to go.
- Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
- Joyce Manor – Million Dollars to Kill Me
- Nervus – Everything Dies
- Camp Cope – How To Socialise & Make Friends
- Itoldyouiwouldeatyou – Oh Dearism
- Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
- Antarctigo Vespucci – Love In The Time of E-Mail
- Idles – Joy As an Act of Resistance
- The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
- Boss Keloid – Melted On the Inch