Kill the Moonlight

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Coming just a year-and-a-half after their triumphant return Girls Can Tell, Kill the Moonlight isn't so much a step backward as a step sideways, almost like a breather after the emotional and musical intensity of their previous album. It isn't surprising, really, that the group would choose to follow such a cathartic album as Girls Can Tell with a collection of tougher, leaner, and meaner songs like "All the Pretty Girls Go to the City," which sounds like the inverse of Girls' "Everything Hits at Once"; "The Way We Get By," a prime example of Spoon's smart, nervy rock; or the spare, spooky pop of "Paper Tiger" and "Someone Something." It is somewhat surprising, however, that Spoon managed to pare down their sound even more on Kill the Moonlight -- tracks such as "Small Stakes" and "Something to Look Forward To" are so stripped-down and sculpted that they're practically aerodynamic; the only problem is that they don't always take off from there. Still, even the album's sparest moments feature Spoon's much-heralded knack with catchy melodies and hooks, even if songs such as "Don't Let It Get You Down" would be even more memorable with a slightly more fleshed-out approach. Hints of this appear on the songs with unique production twists, such as "Stay Don't Go," which sports a human beatbox rhythm; on the distant backing vocals and baritone saxes of "You Gotta Feel It"; and on the album-closer, "Vittorio E.," an undulating, vaguely psychedelic ballad that finally gives the band's playing and songwriting the full treatment they deserve. Though the album's brittle immediacy is far from a disappointment, and the quick turnaround between Kill the Moonlight and their previous one is a treat for Spoon fans, one can't help but notice that this album just isn't as revelatory as Girls Can Tell. But even if the artistic course Spoon seems to be plotting is two steps forward, one step back, it's more than rewarding enough to enjoy every stop on the journey.

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