It’s been over 20 years since Austin rock band Spoon released their debut record, Telephono and since then the band have gone through a huge amount. Only lead singer Britt Daniels and drummer Jim Eno remain from the original band that formed in 1993 but their distinctive sound, predominantly their calmer, acoustic work gained plaudits from around the world. Hot Thoughts sees the band embrace new challenges for their ninth record which as a whole, is a brilliant shift in direction and one that is sure to intrigue many new listeners.
Opener and title track, Hot Thoughts highlights straightaway the ambition of the four piece’s new direction. Funky and strong, the track has a primal, longing nature with line “Hot thoughts melting my cue” signalling the effects that the desire for an individual has on the singer. The band’s groove driven stance is also clearly apparent in Can I Sit Next To You?, a mix of funk and beautiful The Last Shadow Puppets-style strings which displays the feeling of feverish adoration to win over someone.
The album can also be seen to draw distinct elements from classic rock such like the David Bowie sounding Tear It Down and the 1980’s styled Do I Have To Talk You Into It?, which with its distinctive synths and piano line sees Daniels moving the track along slowly with his crooning vocals which dance and distort in a shouted manner over the song. I Ain’t the One provides a chilled, moody atmosphere alongside messages of defiance like line “When the day comes knocking, knocking on me / I say, I ain’t the one”, whilst Western influenced Shotgun contrasts two guitars to create a dark, carnal atmosphere.
Despite the different avenues that the band have chosen to take, there is a sense of welcome familiarity for example on First Caress, which sees Fischel’s driven piano line allows for Daniels’ vocals to shine over the top, glistening on a wave before the piano breaks down into a sporadic whirl over a tale of lust. Daniels uses urgent and rushed vocals to add suspense on WhisperI’lllistentohearit, an electronic track with smoothly layered synths over the top. It’s needy and longing and sees a big transitionary shift before the second verse in which a dominant base line takes over. Line “You’re a lost letter needs delivery” hints towards waywardness and the need to be fulfilled and pointed in the right direction and the track as a whole is intriguing and mysterious.
Mystery has always surrounded Spoon’s music with little pockets of intrigue mixed into most of their albums. This is clearly seen in two different instrumental tracks Pink Up and Us. Pink Up sees the band in full psychedelic mode, with enchanting synths and scattered drums dominating the track. The final track on the album, Us, is a stunning jazz coda with its saxophone introduction lulling everyone into a false sense of security before dancing over sparse moments of emptiness. Thundering drums arrive at intervals to build tension before a blanket of calmness washes over towards the end of the stunning final track.
It’s a brilliant overall album from the US band and all the tracks fit together perfectly. Spoon have managed to get the perfect balance between their new direction and their traditional sound and it’s something that is sure to get the attention of many new fans.