Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week Carolyn Menyes, Kyle Dowling, Caitlin Carter chat about Spoon's latest album, They Want My Soul. Feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.
Caitlin Carter: They Want My Soul, Spoon's eighth studio album, is a culmination of the work the band has been doing for the past 20 years. With tight production and well-versed writing,it is a great follow-up to the band's 2007 effort Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
To be honest, I missed out on their 2011 release, Transference, so this is the first I've really listened to the band since about 2007. I'm glad I've been reintroduced because this effort is great. From lines that reference Garden State and lyrics taken from David Bowie, the album is full of little musical/cultural Easter eggs.
The sound isn't too much of a departure from the minimalist style they've stuck to in the past, but this time around it is expanded with little production elements that brighten and broaden the record.
Kyle Dowling: As embarrassing as it is to admit, this is the first Spoon album I've ever listened to. And that's not because of any particular reason or...I've just never given them a listen. But perhaps it's good things went that way, because They Want My Soul is an incredible album. As cliche as it sounds,I was hooked by the first song, which reminded me very much of The Rolling Stones.
One thing I noticed about the album is it's flow...almost as if it could be woven together to make one beautiful piece of music. The production that Caitlin spoke to is something I think needs to be noted here because it was put together rather wonderfully.
Carolyn Menyes: I agree... I'm honestly and pleasantly surprised by the music on They Want My Soul. I always feel like I never actually listened to Transference, but I really did... I just couldn't care about it after the brilliance that was Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. This new album really feels like it lives up to that though. It is really, really tight. My favorite thing about Spoon has always been the band's inescapable catchiness and hooks. They really reel you in right from those first stomping, steady drumbeats of "Rent I Pay."
It really feels like this band got their groove back, and I think they know it too. I saw them two months ago at Governors Ball, and they were all smiles. It was admirable.
So, it's established that we all kind of love They Want My Soul. What are your favorite songs?
CC: Right off the bat, I loved the dreamy down-tempo "Inside Out" and later on I really dug "Outlier." This might totally be a coincidence, but the production on it sounds a lot like Broken Bells, which The Shins' James Mercer is in. And he references the Shins-championing film Garden State in the lyrics, so I thought that was kind of funny.
KD: There are so many bits and pieces from quite a few of the songs that I seem to really dig. I love the guitar on "Rent I Pay," the drums on "Knock Knock Knock" are undeniably fantastic, and "Let Me Be Mine" causes my foot to have a seizure from tapping so much. Overall, I'll go with the album's final song, "New York Kiss." I think it's catchy, feel-good, and there's something about the chorus that grabs me.
CM: It seems like we all love different songs! The song that really took me out of the regular monotonous listening experience and properly engage was "Do You." The peppy little "dos" at the beginning really made my ears perk, and I love the simple beats, acoustic guitar strums and the entire upbeat nature of the music. It's really just a fun track, and singer Britt Daniel's voice when he asks "Do you want to be understood / Do you want one thing or are you looking for sainthood" is this nice mix of scratchy and earnest... it really appeals to me on a lot of levels.
I think what I can gather from us all pulling different standout tracks is just how carefully produced and selected this whole album is. Spoon is probably best known for releasing nothing but the best material on record, and they did that again here onThey Want My Soul after straying from that on Transference (which is probably why that album "flopped").
Every track on They Want My Soul could be a single... It's like each song is a perfectly constructed piece to a bigger puzzle.
CC: That's a great point, Carolyn (and I think Kyle mentioned it earlier, too). This album is so meticulously crafted that there is no way they'd let a bum track slide in. I don't remember how recent this was, but I remember Spoon being named metacritics Band of the Decade or something similar to that because their albums are the most consistently high rated from professional critics.
Anything that you didn't like? Any lyrics that bugged you? Did you take offense to him saying liking the Garden State soundtrack means you have bad taste? Trying to find something to talk about from the other side of the coin...
CM: I like Spoon and I like Garden State (and its soundtrack... it changed my life). Can't we all just get along?
KD: I will say that the song you're referring to that mentions Garden State ("Outlier") may be my least favorite on the album. And that's not because I personally liked Garden State. Though I will agree that the album has become overrated. We get it ... people like it. Anyway, I very much like the chorus of "Rainy Taxi," especially the lyric: "And you've been sleeping through the brightest flash of apocalyptic ruin." Anything you both didn't like?
CC: Honestly, I liked some songs more than others, but there wasn't anything that I particularly disliked.
KD: I think these guys really put together a solid piece of material for their fans. Being that we all liked the album, I'm curious to hear what the negative thoughts of this album are. While it seems there's not much (if anything) we didn't like, is there anything here you both believe could possibly lend itself to some negative reviews?
CC: I'm not sure if this is really a negative, but what was missing was something unexpected. All of the songs sound like Spoon, and they were all good, but nothing surprised me. Aside from that, I don't have much negative criticism.
CM: True. If this album came right after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, it would probably be panned because it's just so standard Spoon. I like Spoon though, so I don't really mind. But you're right. Where's the spice to this album? The twists? The turns? I also sort of question whether or not this album will really stay in my rotation. I love it today, but will I care in a few months? I'm not so sure. Get back to me then.
KD: I can certainly understand what you're both talking about. But maybe it's because it's the only Spoon album I've listened to, I feel more twists and turns would have hurt the album. Having said that, Carolyn's point of "will I care in a few months?" seems rather valid.
CC: I felt this was an extremely well crafted album with beautiful production and thoughtful writing. Nothing out of the ordinary for Spoon, but definitely a logical progression of their sound. We'll see if I come back to it later on, but I give it a thumbs up today.
KD: They Want My Soul is a great album. I've never listened to an entire Spoon record all the way through and I'm thrilled to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this record. I know it seems ridiculous saying that after a band has been around for 20 years I've finally just started listening to them, but it's the case in this situation. And I enjoyed it. Thank God for Junk Mail, huh?
CM: Thank god for Junk Mail, indeed. Spoon are really back to form on They Want My Soul, and they've got my soul (and heart). This album is tight, it's hooky, it's definitive Spoon. Love it.