Listening

Spoon — Hot Thoughts

I haven’t been this excit­ed for new music from Spoon in some time. Maybe since Gimme Fic­tion? I loved Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, liked a few tracks on Trans­fer­ence and then I’m embar­rassed to admit that I slept through They Want My Soul alto­geth­er.

The lead sin­gle, “Hot Thoughts,” strikes a famil­iar chord: it is unmis­tak­ably a Spoon record, find­ing a groove and lock­ing it in. I’m look­ing for­ward to hear­ing more in March.

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Listening

In Praise of Spoon

I know peo­ple have cooled on their steely grooves, but I don’t know how I would’ve got­ten through 2002–2007 with­out steady dos­es of Spoon. Two songs in par­tic­u­lar that gal­va­nized my will when it was bent near the break­ing point: “That’s the Way We Get By” and “The Under­dog.”

Can’t lis­ten to either of these tunes with­out being trans­port­ed back in time. The for­mer reminds me of a sweaty sum­mer spent in Brook­lyn, punch­ing F5 on craigslist or inter­view­ing for jobs for which I was but one of hun­dreds of appli­cants. I’d turn this all the way up as I sat on my futon, scrap­ing by on adjunct lecturer’s wages and what­ev­er was left on my stu­dent loans. The lat­ter takes me to a bet­ter place: final­ly back on the job after near­ly a year out of work. It was their brand new album at the time and I had a hard time believ­ing that “The Under­dog” wasn’t my per­son­al anthem that sum­mer.

A few years on and I keep find­ing myself com­ing back to these records. I can’t think of a band whose body of work has more close­ly fit my moods over more than a decade of fan­dom.

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Listening

The New Spoon Album

I’ve been lis­ten­ing to Spoon’s Trans­fer­ence for the past cou­ple weeks. They’re on of my favorite bands. Britt Daniel has become a great lyri­cist and the songs have got­ten catch­i­er with every album. That is, until now.

I heard an inter­view with the band last night that made Trans­fer­ence more appeal­ing than it is. Daniel and Jim Eno made the album’s weak­ness­es sound like strengths. There’s no hid­ing the fact that their efforts to make an “ugli­er” record suc­ceed­ed, so why not embrace it?

They knew what sound they want­ed and pro­duced the record them­selves, but that’s not the issue. Trans­fer­ence is imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize­able as a Spoon record; the prob­lem is that it’s not a very good one. You’d have to go back to the dar­ing, equal­ly uneven Kill the Moon­light to hear some­thing as infu­ri­at­ing as this. Sequenc­ing, not pro­duc­tion, stops Trans­fer­ence in its tracks.

Spoon buried the best songs in the mid­dle third of the album, start­ing with “Writ­ten in Reverse” and end­ing with the plain­tive strains of “Good­night Lau­ra,” a song that veers dan­ger­ous­ly close to maudlin which wouldn’t be so bad if this weren’t a Spoon album.

We’ve come to expect great things. Their sound might be best described as Bil­ly Joel songs as reimag­ined by Wire. Songs like “Sis­ter Jack” and “The Under­dog” bur­nished their rep­u­ta­tion as a band on the cusp of great­ness. There’s noth­ing of that cal­iber here.

Trans­fer­ence should’ve been Spoon’s mag­num opus, the prod­uct of two decades worth of hard work from a band at the height of its pow­er. Instead it’s the album you can tell the unini­ti­at­ed they can safe­ly ignore.

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Listening

A New Year in Music

2009 was a dis­as­trous year for me and music. I was real­ly turned off to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that I might like any­thing. I revert­ed to old habits, lis­ten­ing to a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of met­al, with­out real­ly explor­ing fur­ther. For some­one who in the past prid­ed him­self on catholic taste, it was some­thing of a dis­ap­point­ment. Worse, I’ve not felt a part of the music scene for a while now and that real­ly trou­bles me. I mean, my title is music edi­tor, right?

With­out get­ting bogged down in all the hows and whys, I’m real­ly excit­ed for 2010 already. Two of my favorite bands, Spoon and Liars, have albums out this Jan­u­ary and it’s the time of year where I obsess over these releas­es, often at the expense of ignor­ing wor­thy albums that come along lat­er in the year’s pro­mo­tion­al cycle.

I used to think it was stu­pid for bands to release albums this time of year. Boy, was I wrong! When LCD Soundsys­tem releas­es albums in the dead of win­ter, they cap­ture more atten­tion than they would if they tried to shoe­horn their stuff into the March and Octo­ber gluts. It’s the per­fect time of year to real­ly get famil­iar with a record. You’re trapped in the house or car any­way, so you might as well crank up the stereo.

I cel­e­brate the new year in music by delet­ing every­thing in iTunes and start­ing over fresh. Right now I’m lis­ten­ing to Spoon, but I’ll be check­ing out new music from Yeasay­er, Ted Leo, Liars, Blood Feath­ers, Vam­pire Week­end and Gil-Scott Heron (!) soon enough. What a great way to start 2010!

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