has never been a band concerned with stakes. It's not that there isn't a sense of ambition in their music, but it seems that Britt Daniel and Jim Eno - the band's core duo since the beginning - have never been pining for the next big radio hit to take them a couple rungs up the entertainment ladder. Yes, they've had plenty of respectfully successful tracks, but the band has never reached the same level of success and recognition as The Shins
of the world. For nearly 25 years, they have been perfectly happy operating under the radar, subtly tweaking their sound album-to-album but never straying into full on, drastic reinvention. 2014's stellar They Want My Soul
saw the band reinvigorate their sound with some tasteful studio polish, but with the catchy songwriting and garage-rock attitude still well in tact. It's that sense of just a bunch of ordinary guys recording quick rock songs in a basement that has always been the through line connecting Spoon's vast discography, even while those guys have upgraded to actual recording studios.
Spoon's music was never meant to change to world - they'd probably be the first to tell you that - but there's no denying that they're one of the most reliable bands working today. Even without a bona-fide "hit," their vast collection of hook-heavy, memorable music is one of the most respected and consistently praised discographies in rock, and their newest album Hot Thoughts
is only another pristine addition to their work. On their ninth studio album, the band continues building upon the synth-driven and vastly textured production heard on They Want My Soul
, but adds a degree of spontaneity and unruliness heard on older albums like Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
or Kill the Moonlight
. While They Want My Soul
was 10 tracks of air-tight riffs and some of the most focused songwriting ever displayed by the band, the 10 tracks on Hot Thoughts
freely linger in kaleidoscopic directions and tingle with elements of Motown, R&B, and even disco, making for record that's at once vastly different than and exactly what Spoon fans were hoping for.
Daniel and Eno have always been able to lay down a groove, as well proven by tracks like "I Turn My Camera On" and "Don't You Evah," but never before have they sounded this outright funky and feverishly danceable while still maintaining their jagged rock edge. The album's title track kicks things off with an up-tempo beat and features some great sonic atmosphere and explosive dynamics, but it's the sinister second single, "Can I Sit Next to You," that will really want to make you get up on your feet. Not a single note is out of place as Britt Daniel snarls his way through each verse, his voice packing as much vigor and grit as the crisp, overdriven guitars. "Do I Have to Talk You Into It" finds the sweet spot between a grimy, lo-fi rock sound and an old school funk jam, mixing in piano-driven vamps with volatile guitars and compressed-to-hell drums. A lot of the tracks on Hot Thoughts
rely on vamps, in fact, which is really where the dance influences really shine through. Luckily, the band doesn't get too lost in the music for most of these tracks, and the well placed sonic texturing and dynamic variation keep songs like the disco-minded "First Caress" or the galloping "Shotgun" from becoming stale or overstaying their welcome.
While roughly half of the record is quick and catchy as expected, the band uses the other half to expand their songwriting horizons and experiment more than ever before. "WhisperI'lllistentohearit" features a left-field tempo change almost halfway into the track, taking it from atmospheric mediation to intense head-banger barreling into oblivion. "Pink Up" is a free-flowing experimental jam that clocks in at nearly six minutes, one of the bands longest songs to date, and almost feels like a warm-up act for the album's closer, the free-jazz improv instrumental "Us." That's right, unexpected as it may sound, there's jazz improv on a Spoon record, and even while the band still specializes in sub-four minute rock jams, they manage to pull off these avant-garde turns with surprising authenticity. These songs explore some trippy uncharted territory for the band, but still remain grounded enough to not topple into self-indulgence.
Even on the less out-there tracks, Spoon has loosened up and flexed their creative muscles more than ever before on Hot Thoughts
, and the result is an eclectic mix of their signature earworms and riffs with more sonically ambitious experimentation and danceable rhythms. But as with every Spoon album, the band hasn't lost their ability to deliver solid, appealing music even with the new direction in sound. After all this time, the band has outdone just about every other band of their caliber by continuing to evolve and continuing to explore, never once resting on their laurels or looking back to their "glory days." Maybe it's because they never had the luxury of riding on a radio hit, but Spoon truly is a band defined by their work as a whole, not just a handful of singles. They have been doing their own thing on their terms since 1993, and nine albums in, they have yet to disappoint.