LA emo rockers Spanish Love Songs have returned with their third studio album, ‘No Joy’; their first release since 2022’s ‘Brave Faces Etc.’ and 2020’s ‘Brave Faces Everyone’. This record shows a lot of progression with this band and tackles a lot of similar topics and themes lyrically that the band is known for. It also mixes emo, pop-punk, and indie rock really well throughout the album so they don’t get lumped into a box with what they want to sound like.
The opening track “Lifers” is a solid intro song that feels like an appropriate bridge gap from ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ to ‘No Joy’. It’s got a good chorus and great lyrics as always to set the tone for the rest of the record. One lyric that stood out on first listen was “It’s never adding up, but don’t write yourself out of the equation”. It’s a lyric that is so clever and tackles the main theme on the record that life can be so cruel and confusing and it may not make sense, but it’s important not to give up on it and not to give up on yourself. We follow up with third single “Pendulum”, which is one of the highlights for me off this record. This one has a lot of Wonder Years vibes that hit quick, songwriting wise and vocal wise. The chorus feels so incredibly nostalgic in a way, and the instrumentals during the bridge are so beautiful after a great second chorus beforehand. “Beg for compassion while some preacher calls you dangerous” feels like such a genuine line that pulls no punches to the top tier songwriting of this band. We continue on with the first single (rightfully so) off this record and another highlight, with “Haunted”. The vibes of this whole song remind me of the 90’s and similar to a band like Gin Blossoms. It’s also a great song to show the progression this band is going through from the last record to here, and it fits so well. I appreciate the full circle lyric moment of having “It won’t be this bleak forever” here as it calls back to 2020’s “Self-Destruction (as a Sensible Career Choice)”. Another lyric that stands out to me is “You’re not a cautionary tale, so don’t you vanish on me”. It’s putting you in the head of someone who cares so much about someone going through traumatic memories and to be there for them and hoping they don’t go anywhere, which is something I’ve related to over the years of wanting to be there for a person at some point in my life. It’s one of the best songs this year.
We continue on with the second single off this record, “Clean-Up Crew”. Like the last song, this is another great example of the progression shown on this record. The synth feels so perfectly placed where it needs to be and it’s just a nice addition here and to other tracks as well. The chorus feels so anthemic and one to remember as soon as I heard it, and I appreciate another great bridge here. “It’s just like life to come teach me a lesson, but every time I swear I forget it” is a nice lyric to show off that the song is about life’s here to throw us in every which way and we continue to relearn the same things over and over until maybe one day it’ll stick with us. We slow things down a little bit with a more acoustic-y track in “Middle of Nine”. The acoustic elements go nicely into more pop-influenced bits, which I think mix pretty well. It hits emotionally, particularly in the bridge and final chorus of this song. “That black hole ate all of your serotonin, and no one asks you why you’re ready to go” is such an elegant and honest lyric to show it’s tough to deal with something like depression on your own and no one wanting to know about it. We follow up with the final single from this record and the end of side A of ‘No Joy’ with “Marvel”. The instrumentals feel particularly pleasing here, especially with the acoustic guitar strumming throughout. The synth once again comes in clutch here and it shines. “Stay alive out of spite” is also such a powerful line to put in a song and expresses how shitty life can be that you’d want to stay alive in spite of how much it puts you through or in spite of your own mind telling you otherwise.
We open side B with another slower track, with “I’m Gonna Miss Everything”. I also think the pop elements here work pretty well. This track isn’t one of my favorites compared to a lot of the other tracks on here, but I’m still grateful for its place on the album in retrospect. One lyric that stands out though is “Every person I am or I am gonna be, I’m gonna miss everything” because it showcases that whoever we choose to be, we’re gonna make mistakes and that’s apart of life. Spanish Love Songs do a great job at being honest about the bad in life, but also showcasing just how important it is to find and revel in the good in life too. We then get to what might be my favorite track on the album, with “Rapture Chaser”. It immediately gives off emo vibes and I’m so here for it, with the 2000’s feeling guitar with the acoustic mixed in throughout. It has another solid chorus that gives off an incredibly nostalgic feeling. One lyric that stuck out and probably one of the best on the whole album is “Your heart will never be full, so don’t waste your grief on fools”. Just incredible songwriting happening here and it hits deep. And just how with this song in particular, it lyrically feels like it’s from the songwriter’s POV throughout like a story was being told which I love. The record continues on with another slower song that dives more on the indie side, with “Mutable”. Once again, I admit this song is not a favorite of mine either but I once again appreciate its placement here. I do love the synth mixed with the guitar in the beginning, which is beautiful. One thing I appreciate about this band a lot is how specific and particular some details with the lyrics are, it sets them apart for me from so many other bands’ in the scene. It gives them such a genuine and real identity and I appreciate that so much.
We’re now on the home stretch of this record, starting with another highlight of a track with “Here You Are”. This song out of any other song on here gave me instant vibes of the last record with how energetic it was in comparison. I think the bass comes through nicely in the verses and the instrumentals during the bridge absolutely deliver. “Go out like a spark, put your trauma on me” is another lyric worth shouting out as we near the end of the album. The record follows up with the penultimate track, “Exit Bags”. This song probably pulls off the slow song mixed with pop elements the best on this album, and it feels the most appropriately placed one in regards to it’s place on the record. Vocalist Dylan Slocum really does remind me of The Wonder Years‘ Dan Campbell at times, but it’s most apparent here. The lyrics also being written for someone near and dear in your life and them going through life, good and bad, make it feels even more genuine and appreciated. We reach the final track of the album, with “Re-Emerging Signs of the Apocalypse”. The slow buildup to it going into full-band mode is so well done here and it just keeps you invested throughout the song. It’s certainly another highlight as it’s also a fitting closing track to this record. And the lyric tying back to track one with “We’re apart of the equation” really has that nice full circle moment to close it all out, and even fades out nicely as the album comes to a close.
So in conclusion, ‘No Joy’ isn’t as consistent as a record like ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ but it’s such a worthy successor to it nonetheless, especially lyrically and in tone. This band have done a marvelous job at keeping their sound in tact, but also progressing naturally on this record and I think fans will be pleased here. And I definitely think this is a band to listen to when you get the chance since they deliver on all cylinders. Catch Spanish Love Songs on tour in the fall with Hot Mulligan, Heart Attack Man, and Ben Quad.
Check out the video for “Pendulum” below.