Might as well talk about the weather as there’s physically no other way for me to break the ice when introducing the Spanish Prisoners. We are in the midst of a heatwave in case you haven’t noticed, and the endless beads of sweat and feverish hallucinations such extremes create match well with the chilly atmosphere of Leonid Maymind’s earnest batch of ghostly folk. By naming his debut Songs to Forget he’s either set himself up for an inevitable punchline or (keeping my fingers crossed) turned a phrase that inherently describes his music. Like no other album released in the city this year, Songs to Forget is powerful in the sense that it has the ability to transport or at least make one “forget” they’re stuck in the middle of Ohio.
MP3: Some Among Them Are Killers
Where most Americana is steeped in regional celebration and local color, Maymind’s imagination tends to roam though a number of exotic climes. Being born in Latvia, raised in New Orleans, and finally spit-shined in Columbus, the guy’s obviously a xenophile without a comfortable home, perpetually fueled by his wanderlust. “Song for the Weary” has the slow-motioned crawl of the most tragic of love stories, only Maymind’s unsure of its shape, hovering between Appalachian spiritual, deep Southern blues, and even deeper swamp lore. I was reminded of the first time I heard the Palace Brothers, and whether there was a place in contemporary indie music for such stark authenticity. More Oldham than Oberst, the album’s sincerity towards traditional sounds is its most rewarding attribute.
Clearly though, the prize here lies in the Spanish Prisoner’s modest bent for experimentation. “Some Among Them are Killers” and stunning closer “Ballad of an Unfolding,” both weave the acoustic with the electronic, making for spooky rustic pop built with scattered beats and digital skree. The Postal Service or early Califone would be a convenient reference point, but Maymind’s fragile voice and imploding structures give off the feeling that it could all topple over with a strong wind. Even his ramshackle attempts at slacker salvos, found in the Pavement (prolly more Silver Jews) inspired “Periwinkle Blues” and “A Thousand Zimmermans,” are skinny and skeletal, and that’s all part of the charm.
Of course it’s too early to call Maymind a wunderkind — I’ve yet to see this unfold live (and have heard it’s not exactly the bee’s knees…yet) and Songs to Forget was aided by a long cast of local luminaries, including Sarah Asher, Eric Metronome, and the CDR crew (c’mon guys, sink some money into this record, this is something that could really expand the fam’), but that doesn’t mean that Maymind’s vision isn’t intriguing, unique, and completely from the heart. We should all be paying attention.
The Spanish Prisoners will celebrate the release of Songs to Forget tomorrow night at
The Basement. Recent Misra additions, Southeast Engine and (don’t get me started) The Slide Machine will round out an amazing little show at a crappy little club.