So much is made of how consistent Spoon are that it's easy to overlook just how much they change things up on nearly every album. On Hot Thoughts, the differences aren't subtle: Spoon alternated between drifting songs and driving ones on They Want My Soul, but this time, they bring together their twin fascinations with structure and atmosphere with a rawness and sophistication evoked by the album cover's watercolor skull. Helping them add color to the bones of these songs is David Fridmann, who feels more in tune with the band (and vice versa) than he did on They Want My Soul; by Spoon's standards, songs such as "Pink Up" and the ghostly saxophone reverie "Us" are downright lush. And while rhythm has always been vital to their highly edited take on rock, Jim Eno's drumming is the star of Hot Thoughts. This is especially true of the album's first few songs, which glide in on shimmying grooves that almost sound like they're beat-matched. The title track swirls as much as it swaggers, thanks to strings that provide the refined yin to the yang of its relentless beat; the crackling "WhisperI'lllistentohearit" delivers maximum impact with minimum fuss; and "Do I Have to Talk You into It" turns what could've been a more typical Spoon rocker into something more playful -- and more convincing -- with the spacy synths and kinetic percussion that define the album. The band hinted at this direction with They Want My Soul's "Outlier," and the way they build on it with these seductive, stark yet flowing songs feels both logical and exciting. Even when they return to more familiar territory, they still keep things fresh. "First Caress" and "Shotgun" hit just as hard as Spoon's more straightforward rock songs, and though "Can I Sit Next to You"'s slinking riff bears more than a little resemblance to "I Turn My Camera On," the starlit synths and rubbery strings that surround it could be from some lost disco reverie. Similarly, the massive coda that punctuates "Tear It Down"'s bouncy pop feels new, while the expressive percussion on "I Ain't the One" -- which ranges from nothing to four-on-the-floor intensity -- only makes its loneliness and independence that much more genuine. One of their strongest albums in a while, Hot Thoughts is more proof that Spoon only get better at introducing new ideas into their music, while sounding unmistakably like themselves, as the years pass.
Hot Thoughts Review
by Heather Phares