[ALBUM REVIEW] Spoon: They Want My Soul
When an artist announces a new album, the news is often met with a strange mix of excitement and this paranoid sort of dread. I don't know what it is, maybe we're all still scarred from when Maroon 5 totally bombed forever after Songs About Jane – but most of us struggle with what I call 'musical trust issues'.'What if it's nothing like their previous releases? What if we hit play, giddy with anticipation, only to find that the unique qualities that made us fall in love our favorite artists have been stripped away in favor of a new sound we don't enjoy nearly as much?
In the case of the band Spoon, who hadn't eeked out so much as a single since their LP Transference in 2010 – the announcement that their eighth album would be out this summer had me especially nervous. While still a good album, Transference for me was lacking something, and I worried that their 2014 release, They Want My Soul, would only send them farther down that path. Fortunately though, it only took one listen to ease my fears. While many of the tracks are unique from those of past releases, Spoon doesn't venture so far from their roots as to lose us along the way. They Want My Soul is experimental, adventurous, but not aimless. Even for a band like Spoon, who have managed to maintain a following after so many years, this is a feat. As proven by the many artists who have let us down in the past, this is a delicate balance to strike.
This genius mix of the conventional and the adventurous has standout tracks incorporating both elements. The second track, "Inside Out" deviates far from the conventional precedent set by Spoon's other albums as Britt Daniel's abrasive vocals contrast the smooth strings and starry effects to create some seriously satisfying ear candy. Another strong track, "Knock Knock Knock" achieves a similar complexity of sound with a distortion that sounds less like a guitar and more like a small forest animal being mutilated – in a good way. Towards the end of the album, Spoon pull out even more of the stops with a cover of Ann-Margaret's "I Just Don't Understand" that preserves the song's characteristic honky-tonk lilt but still blows even The Beatles' version out of the water.
The strong points of this album are held together by tracks like "Do You" and the title track, "They Want My Soul". While not necessarily the most memorable, they manage to maintain the energy of the album without feeling like cheap filler. One sad exception to this is "Outlier", which, while interesting, I have found myself skipping over as it feels like dead weight on the album. But even though not every track is an experimental, production-heavy masterpiece, the more conventional ones hold their own charm. "Let Me Be Mine", for instance, shares a sunny acoustic guitar sound reminiscent of some of Spoon 's earlier tracks (think "I Summon You"). The title track even makes mention of Jonathan Fisk, lead singer Britt Daniel's childhood bully who has his own song dedicated to him on 2002's Kill The Moonlight. These details remind us that Spoon, for all their risk-taking in this album, are still Spoon. Everyone may want their soul, but after all of these years, they don't seem to have sold it quite yet.
They Want My Soul is scheduled for release in the UK on August 4th and on August 5th in the US. While you wait, stream via iTunes Radio and watch the imaginative video for "Inside Out."