Texas indie-rock outfit Spoon has flown under my radar, but I decided to investigate the band’s output prior to reviewing their latest album They Want My Soul and I do feel like I’ve missed out on a very solid band. They Want My Soul feels like the kind of album a band makes when the members want to try something different but still know how to play to their strengths at the same time. Though I’m not overly familiar with Spoon, this album could be as good an introduction to the band as any.
Opening track Rent to Pay starts off brilliantly with a slow and purposeful combination of guitars and drums, eventually adding a slick bassline and fuzzy organ in the background as vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel delivers lyrics in a nasal voice that’s still capable of emoting well over the course of the album.
Inside Out mixes things up with a notable departure from the garage rock of the previous track, with its inclusion of shimmery synthesisers and minimal use of lead guitar making it seem like a different band at first – of course, Daniel’s vocal work is distinctive enough to remind listeners that it’s still very much the same group (that and yet another simple yet effective bassline, of which the album has plenty).
Rainy Taxi marks a shift back to a more rocking style, deftly juxtaposing upbeat rhythms with moody melodies. Do You marks a bit of a downturn by also continuing the upbeat moodiness of the previous track, but the hook and vocals fall a bit flat – the “do-do-do” that peppers the song works against the song a bit. Knock Knock Knock marks an upswing in quality with its acoustic guitar intro giving way to a towering anthem filled with jagged guitars, tense strings and ethereal organs. The shifting between quiet sections and loud sections never feels forced and makes for a standout track.
Outlier marks a return to the heavily synthesised style shown on Inside Out, layering multiple catchy keyboard tricks on top of Spoon’s ever-dependable rhythm section putting out some danceable beats. The lead guitar is barely perceptible for much of the song, which is most definitely not a bad thing as the song becomes much more than the sum of its parts once it settles into a nice groove.
The title track marks a switch back to the guitar-driven rock side of Spoon and also distinguishes itself as a highlight thanks in no small part to the shrill yet satisfying electric guitar parts, while I Just Don’t Understand is a bluesy ballad that utilises piano and acoustic guitar to great effect. On the other hand, Let Me Be Mine may have some tinny production on its bouncy acoustic opening but clears up and introduces piano, but it ultimately doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the other tracks on offer here.
The album closes with New York Kiss, which feels like a summation of all the tracks that came before it in its combination of synthesisers, piano and guitars. Once again Spoon is careful to balance all the instruments just right in another song that is upbeat and melancholy but still stands out from what’s come before, resulting in not just a satisfactory closer but a good track in its own right. They Want My Soul is definitely one of the more impressive releases I’ve heard this year. It definitely makes me want to check out more of Spoon’s work and is a great album on its own. Sure, there’s the odd misstep (Do You still stands out as a weak track), but otherwise it’s an impressive piece of indie rock and even when the group flirts with electronica it still manages to work.