Hot Thoughts


Matador, 2017

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Spoon is one of the few bands of the new millennium that truly evolves and adapts with each new record while remaining consistently intense and engaging. Now 23 years and nine albums in, Britt Daniel and company have turned in another strong 40-minute set, relying as much on atmosphere and space as on kinetic yet underplayed songs.

“Hot Thoughts” is Spoon as we’ve never heard them, driving and electronic. It relies as much on Berlin-era Bowie and Kraftwerk as on modern indie rock tropes, and it’s an arresting and catchy tune. “Whisperi’lllistentohearit” is equally as seductive, setting the stage with background keyboard figures and a one-note guitar riff plucked twice, eventually doubling on the other speaker, the atmosphere slowly ratcheting up under Daniel’s falsetto-to-normal vocals. When Jim Eno’s drums come in, the shift is abrupt and claustrophobic, and when the song ends you feel like you need to hear it again.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Really, the entire album is full of these smart, economical songs, each one with a vocal or melodic hook that gets you, from the neo-disco “First Caress” to the subdued smooth jazz-meets-trance wanderings of “Pink Up” and “Can I Sit Next To You,” which sort of sounds like Daft Punk in a rainy reflective mood. Very little on this album sounds like 2014’s They Want My Soul, let alone the band’s sorta-breakthrough 2007 disc Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga; this is very much of the moment, restless and introverted but quietly rewarding.

“I Ain’t The One” is the sort of music that Radiohead used to make circa Kid A before they wandered off into the ether with their last two albums and is an easy highlight here, circulating quieter electronic-guitar-only passages with synthesized percussive parts. On the flip side is the insistent pulse-racing “Shotgun,” which takes familiar elements from pop and indie bands past and makes them new and fresh; you will be tapping your foot or bobbing your head halfway through without realizing it, I would bet. (Granted, I also picked Villanova to go to the Final Four this year, so take my advice as you will).

On a more curious note, Daniel chooses to end the disc with an ethereal five-minute instrumental led by atonal saxophone blasts and a bed of moody keyboards, punctuated with the occasional drum blast, picking up a little steam toward the end but never really arriving at a destination. It’s a gutsy choice because it threatens to undo the goodwill of the previous nine songs. But it ends up being of a piece with the melancholy nature of the rest of Hot Thoughts, in that there may be no easy answers and loneliness is inevitable at times, but the journey is as important as the destination. It’s a rather downbeat ending, sure, but it’s not a surprising one from these guys.

Hot Thoughts is sort of the equivalent of a Clint Eastwood-directed movie; economical, no longer than it needs to be, compelling from front to back, emphasizing function over form, generally resulting in an array of Oscar nominations for acting, writing, and directing because the story and characters are front and center, not the special effects or costumes or fan service endings. When Spoon releases a record, it’s going to be good, and this is their best in a while.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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