2014 Staff PicksArtist: Spoon
Title: They Want My Soul
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Label: Loma Vista

Spoon has done the impossible.

In the course of their 20-plus year career, Britt Daniel and company have braved the troubled waters of the mp3 revolution and come out on top- churning out one successful, subtly experimental, musically rich LP after another. The chief adjective used to describe them has become ‘consistent,’ but hell, Nickelback are consistent. You know what you’re getting with them. Spoon, on the other hand, have been reliable without becoming predictable, and the dexterity they have shown in toeing that line is impressive to say the least. The steady brilliance Spoon have demonstrated since signing their major-label deal all the way back in 1998 has been nothing short of miraculous.

After 2010’s Transference, which some considered a slight disappointment; the individual members of Spoon explored new frontiers. Britt Daniel went on to form Divine Fits, drummer Jim Eno tried his hand as a producer, bassist Rob Pope toured with The Get Up Kids, and multi-instrumentalist Eric Harvey made a solo album. Returning to their day jobs, Spoon are back with They Want My Soul- an urgent, sonically adventurous album with classic rock muscle and interesting production value courtesy of a collaboration with Dave Fridmann (MGMT, The Flaming Lips). In promotional interviews Daniel billed this album as one to blast in your car, and from the outset- opener “Rent I Pay,” it’s apparent what he means. While (strategically) not every track is an all-out rocker, They Want My Soul often shows off an effortless swagger and stomp reminiscent of Zeppelin’s heyday. The classic rock influence Daniel mentioned is more conceptual than anything else- these songs manage to draw from a large sonic palette.

Fridmann’s touch is easily identifiable, but he doesn’t go far enough to change the core of the sound Spoon have carved out as their own. His influence nonetheless is all over the outro section of “Inside Out,” as glistening synths seemingly lifted from The Soft Bulletin sessions take an already solid track to tranquil, dreamy heights. Second single “Do You” is a mystifying ride; its hypnotic two-chord strut is the backbone of what turns out to be an undeniable highlight. The chugging, tense “Outlier” threatens to get caught in the fold, but figures to be a fiery live staple. A faithful cover of Ann-Margaret‘s “I Just Don’t Understand” fits seamlessly in the latter stages of the album with its lyrical desperation in tow, but it doesn’t quite stand up to flat out stunners like “New York Kiss” and the title track. This is a band who know how they operate, yet refuse to descend into well meaning self-parody. In the music industry’s diluted state, soul seems to often be the toughest thing to capture- a missing link among both newcomers and established artists. Those with integrity are relentlessly pulled at from every angle. 21 years and 8 records in, Spoon have proven they still won’t budge. “We got nothing else to give,” chants Daniel on “Inside Out”. Not so.

Few things are certain in life, but among them are death, taxes, and Spoon putting out great rock records.

By: Dennis Moon