Final Rating: 9/10
A year that is slated to see highly anticipated albums released from some of the best names in indie rock is already off to an early start. Spoon, the four piece band from Austin, TX anchored by founding members Britt Daniel (vocals and guitar) and Jim Eno (drums) came back strong with their ninth studio album Hot Thoughts; the follow up to 2014’s excellent release They Want My Soul.
The album kicks off with the lead single and title track Hot Thoughts, a groovy high energy song full of fuzzy guitar riffs, and the familiar sound of Britt Daniel’s straining vocals. The track is layered with xylophone, snappy rhythmic drumming, and a funky bass line. With it being the first single released from the record, it’s a fitting and familiar way to kick things off, before venturing into the unknown depths of Hot Thoughts. The unknown slowly opens up and shines as the second song WhisperI’lllistentohearit kicks off with a slow building synthesizer. It shortly is complimented by guitar as a swirling high pitched sound helps shift the song into a much higher tempo. The song has an unmistakable Spoon feel to it, yet feels like something that could fit right into the Radiohead catalogue.
Do I Have To Talk You Into It brings a soothing mellow introduction to follow up the frantic nature of the second track. It remains steady throughout but features moments that feel like a slow boil towards something bigger. A feeling that is present throughout the bulk of the album. Britt’s vocals create an anxious atmosphere, at times superseding the down-tempo rhythm of the song. It creates a mixed-bag of feelings. You’ll want to relaxingly nod your head with the rhythm, while also wanting to explode with emotion as you sing along with the chorus. It’s followed up with a song of a similar nature; First Caress displays that same sort of anxious tension found through the album. Britt starts out gently conveying the lyrics on a bed of synth and sharp drums, as the music helps to create a feeling of bubbling emotion before a descending piano seems to shove that boiling emotion back down. The track boils up again towards the end where it stops abruptly.
The fifth track and halfway point of the album is titled Pink Up. It kicks off with a medley of synthesizer and xylophone complimented by shakers and a steady kick of the bass drum to keep the beat. The song feels very haunting with the flurry of noises surrounding the music, and Britt’s muffled vocals failing to break through the smothering tracks layered through the song. High pitched xylophone is barely heard before some frantic and brief drum fills shift you into the latter half of the song. It then slowly builds into a frantic swirl of all the noises that have familiarized through the track. It features what sounds like reverse vocal tracks that bring the song back down from its high, and are then complimented by a gentle string section. The strings carry through to the end of the track where a piano leads us into silence.
Can I Sit Next To You opens up with a groovy funky guitar lick and bass line that is going to get the live crowds moving with ease this summer. Continuing with that feeling that pressure is building, Britt showcases some more of those raspy shouting vocals. The song seems to finally hit the release the album has been building towards. Soaring strings carry us away instantly as Britt wails “…I’ve been down but now I’ve gotta get lifted up”. The track feels so perfect nestled into this part of the album, it offers that release that has been teased so thoroughly in the previous tracks. From here the album seems to artistically and energetically wind its way down. It certainly feels post-climatic from this point on.
I Ain’t The One carries us through that feeling. Opening with a gentle beat and heavy synthesizer. Britt’s vocals seem to serve as a complimentary piece to the music here, the synth and rhythm carry the track as the vocals take a bit of a back seat. At points through the track, and in the latter part of the song, the vocals are used in a more instrumental manner to help carry the song towards the end. It’s an enjoyable piece of music but seems to serve more of a purpose to the flow of the album than as a track that stands on its own. It blends nicely into Tear It Down which starts out as a more standard Spoon track. It has harmonious piano and guitar serving as the pedestal for Britt. His vocals are more toned down but are the main driving force behind the song. They guide the instruments through the progression of what’s a very audibly pleasing track. The sound of strings are briefly wrapped into the pre-chorus in a sneaky way. They’re easy to miss but fit so perfectly it would feel strange without them. It wraps up with a bit of a jam session towards the end triggered by Britt’s last lyrics of the song,“tear it on down”. The song appears to be fizzling out but the drums breathe new life and bring it all back together for the aforementioned “jam finale”.
The second to last track and the last we hear of Britt Daniel’s voice is a steady, rhythmic jam titled Shotgun. The bass line and drums are prominent and consistent through the track with a brief breakdown in the middle and towards the end. The song is catchy and energetic and is a burst of up-tempo rhythm. While seeming out of place between tracks eight and ten, it serves as the last dose of the high energy that is felt through the majority of the album.
The final track titled Us is a five minute instrumental track that is psychedelic, bizarre and beautiful. It starts out with some saxophone and xylophone. It features some spastic drumming halfway through and pauses throughout that almost make you think it’s finished. Then the multi-layered saxophone comes back in and ushers in various other instruments in what feels like brief segments where all the strange noises get their turn to shine. Gentle drums sneak in quietly to build the song up as it reaches its high point towards the end. The track is reflective of the album as a whole; It creates the feeling that something is trying to bubble up and escape before drifting away to close off the album.
The album as a whole is fantastic. It’s accessible to any fans of the genre but also serves Spoon fans a healthy dose of what they’ve been craving for the past three years. It features musical styling heard throughout their career, while simultaneously picking up where their last album left off. Overall it’s one of my favourite releases of the year so far. Though it’s early and there are some heavyweights dropping new material in 2017, this album will likely remain in the conversation as one of the best of the year.