Hello everyone and welcome back once again to Album of the Year 2014, the daily write-up series for the month of September where we bring you a new write-up each day from a different indieheads
user talking about their favorite album of 2014. Up today, the former head of the Canadian Indie Rock Canon, rccrisp
, is up swinging today talking about Spoon's 2014 album, They Want My Soul
. August 5, 2014 - Loma Vista Listen: Spotify Bandcamp Apple Music Background
Formed in the Mid 90’s and coming into their own in the back half of the decade’s post Grunge landscape, Spoon, formed in Austin, Texas with SingeGuitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno meeting as part of the band The Alien Beats. The band name was chosen in homage to the German Krautrock band Can whose song “Spoon” was the theme song to American release of German film Jagged Edge
. After singing with Matador Records, they released their debut LP Telephono
, an album that had mixed reviews but showed signs of promise, allowing the band to sign a major label record deal. After singing with Elektra, Spoon recorded A Series of Sneaks
, a better received sophomore effort that had poor sales causing the band to be dropped by their label.
After signing with Merge Records, Spoon would find its niche in the growing Indie Rock landscape of the 2000’s. Coincidentally the band would begin a string of stellar albums that today are considered modern classics. From the dark and experimental Girls Can Tell
to the manic Kill the Moonlight
to the pop sensibilities of Gimme Fiction
and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
, Spoon developed a reputation of being one of the most consistent bands in music, able to shift slide and adjust their sound with ease while not alienating their fans. After the (initially) lukewarm received Transference
, Spoon would go on to release They Want My Soul
after a four year break. Review
In the world of rock music it’s hard to age gracefully. Look no further than the kids that made up the Meet Me In The Bathroom
set. The only people sitting there waiting wistfully for the next Strokes album are a bunch of hipster boomers unwilling to let the past die. Sure enough the slow switch of indie rock from college slackers in too big sweaters to “too cool” young adults who took indie rock and turned it into a life style (Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters, PBR, American Spirits) should’ve known that as their music became co-opted by branding and identity, the bands that mode up that culture wouldn’t last past the zeitgeist explosion. Bands like the aforementioned Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand are five to six albums in and are only bringing back diminishing returns. Even the pillars of the genre, your TV On The Radios, Arcade Fires and, gasp, Animal Collective aren’t exactly releasing their best albums as they approach and ultimately pass middle age. Maybe it’s a reflection of the people who consumed this music in the first place (see: me, who is also aging horribly) but these bands were here for the sprint and, seemingly, not the marathon. Because in order to run a marathon you need steadiness, consistency. In Indie Rock you need to be Spoon.
Spoon’s biggest insult is that “they’re the most consistent band in Indie Rock.” It feels like a hollow knock against them and implies a lot of things that are simply untrue. For one it implies the band is “boring” which is patently false. You can’t tell me from their slick, only major label release A Series of Sneaks
to the dark and brooding Girls Can Tell
to the frantic Kill The Moonlight
and trying to find the pop hooks in Gimmie Fiction
and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
that there isn’t a band that’s operating on another level, able to shift and shimmy their sound and yet retain an indescribable “Spoon-ness” that seeps through the songs. Even at their worst Spoon are less “egregiously bad” and more “off the centre of greatness.” Sure I haven’t listened to their debut Telephono
in over a few decades but even when I did, I could hear the moments of greatness in its sludgy production. The criminally underrated Transference
might dive a little too deep into its dark lo fi aesthetic but it contains some of Spoon’s best singular songs and is an absolute killer live. And while Hot Thoughts
misses the mark it’s still refreshing to see a band try throwing a curve ball nine albums into their discography.
The other ridiculous notion about calling Spoon a “consistent band” is the insinuation the band hasn't released a stone cold classic. Kill The Moonlight
and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
definitely refute that claim, Girls Can Tell
and Gimmie Fiction
have a strong case but in my opinion They Want My Soul
can stand up to any of Spoon's classic albums. Spoon began the sessions for recording They Want My Soul
in 2013 after a lengthy hiatus which saw the band members splinter off to do their own projects. Frontman Britt Daniel said that after touring for Transference
that the band felt “a little burned out” and for himself he needed “something that was going to reinvigorate me, to excite me abut working on new stuff again.” Daniel ended up forming The Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, Jim Eno ended up doing production work for other bands, Rob Pope returned to his band The Get Up Kids and Eric Harvey recorded a solo album.
Sessions for They Want My Soul
were broken up into two parts, with much of the early song writing involving Spoon going into sessions with no songs in mind, being assisted by Joe Chiarelli. Dan Friedman however, (notable for producing albums such as Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robot, Era Extraña
and most of MGMT’s discography) is said to have the most impact on the album. As per Daniel, Friedman’s producing style “maxes everything out. We've never worked with somebody like that before - somebody with such a strong sense of their own style." Surely enough when most artists entering their 40’s are releasing their most down-to-earth, quiet albums, Spoon, whose sound while “guitar rock” never really leaned into the “rock” aspect, release their most powerful and bombastic album. On album opener “Rent I Pay” Eno lets his musical voice be heard, the punctuating snappy snares open and continue to pierce through the track as Daniel succinctly describes every day drudgery over a song that sounds like 60’s Classic Rock fused with the punk minimalism of Wire. The urgent and tense “Rainy Taxi” feels like re-contextualization of those frantic and nervous piano-centric tracks from Kill The Moonlight
but mixed with a healthy dose of Chicago with its heart beat bass lines over squealing guitars.
Spoon’s strength has always been it’s been hard to pin point where their sound comes from, making their albums feel wholly their own even though elements of their influences pop and peak in. The ethereal “
Inside Out” feels like a continuation of much of what they explored on Transference
but cleaned up while the synth tinged album ender “New York Kiss” is a crowd pleaser that hints at the upcoming more tech leaning Hot Thoughts.
However Spoon feel at home on this album when they get back to their “indie rock roots.” Songs that feel like proper continuations of the sounds heard on Ga Ga Ga Ga
and Gimmie Fiction
like “Let Me Be Mine” which takes the energy of “The Underdog” but tempers it with darker moments that feel Transference
-era as Daniel fights between the ideas of freedom and commitment. On title track “They Want My Soul” Daniel uses faith and astrological imagery (as well as a shout out to Jonathon Fisk, the name of Britt Daniel’s school age bully who had a song dedicated to him on Kill The Moonlight
) as a metaphor for his public persona allowing people to take pieces of his life away from him. “Do You” feels like it has all the elements of the greatest Spoon songs (an absolutely catchy chorus, piano, hooks and Daniel’s intense vocal delivery) while the lyrics explores the traps and charms of memory and nostalgia. Daniel’s explores love, desires, intentions and self sabotage as he describes himself as a drunken mess in the first verse (“I was half out of the bag”), but follows up on the nature of imperfect love, one night stands (“Flipping back pages, unbuckling belts”) while accepting this is the nature of modern love (“Oh love, that’s the way love comes"),
Few artists ever get to this point, in their 40’s and releasing one of the best albums of their discography. But there’s still a hungriness that it palpable when listening to They Want My Soul
. Time didn’t bog down Spoon, their relative success not becoming a hindrance on writing thought provoking music but instead taking everything they had worked on in the past and bringing it in the present. While their contemporaries were slowly releasing weaker albums Spoon can at least own the fact they had one last gasp, their familiar sound fitted for the modern Indie Rock landscape, being both familiar and expansive and evolving of their albums till that point. Favorite Lyrics
There's intense gravity in you Yeah, there's intense gravity in you I'm just your satellite I'm just your satellite
Oh, love, that's the way love comes Do you, don't you know that that's the way love comes? Do you feel it black and blue? Oh, do you, do you, do you, do you?
Educated folk singers want my soul Jonathon Fisk still wants my soul I got nothing I want to say to 'em They got nothing left that I want All they want's my soul Yes, yes, I know it They want my soul
Right now I know no other time Right now I know no other place I say good night Talking Points
- What do you think is Spoon’s “sound” if you think it can be easily described?
- Seriously why are their songs featured in so many commercials?
- Where does The Want My Soul rank for you in the band’s discography?
- What other past decade releases from older established indie acts did you enjoy?
- Where does They Want My Soul land on your 2014 list?
Thank you to rccrisp
for their write-up! Up tomorrow, we've got Mko0987
scheduled to talk about TV Girl's debut album, French Exit
. In the meantime, discuss today's album in the comments below where the schedule for the rest of the series will be posted.