Spoon falls flat with new album

Nick Moran, co-editor-in-chief

Underwhelming (adjective): failing to make an impact or impress someone; can be synonymous with Spoon’s latest album, Hot Thoughts. Maybe it’s the fact that I was such a big fan of Spoon’s older music, or that the album, which came out March 17, had such a different vibe from the band’s direction.

Admittedly, Spoon had set the bar high. Throughout their career, I had always been drawn to hits such as “Underdog” or “I Summon You,” songs that force your head into a rhythmic sway and beckon you to sing along. In no way did Hot Thoughts have this effect on me.

My introduction to the album was the release of the title track, “Hot Thoughts,” which I found to be unsatisfactory at best. Ultimately, I found the vocals to lack depth, only being able to pick up the oh-so-repeated phrase “hot thoughts all in my mind.” I grew somewhat tired of it halfway through, as it felt overall uninviting and uninteresting.

The title mimics the stylistic trend lots of alternative and indie bands I listen to are making: moving away from the classic guitar/drum/bass sound toward different sounds, including lots of synthesizer or computer tracks. Admittedly, many listeners are praising Spoon and bands alike who are making the shift, but it feels disingenuous to me.

Listening through the history of Spoon’s music, their sound evolved, and their identity began to take form, but Hot Thoughts was a leap. Had it not been for their name under every song title, I wouldn’t have even known I was listening to Spoon.

It becomes more evident as you listen further that the good acoustic guitar days are behind Spoon. The first 30 seconds of “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” sounds like the opening to a new Tron movie, totally out of place. Eventually, it picks up and the drum beat behind everything is more inviting, but the first half of the song drags and feels out of place.

While I found most of the album to be lackluster, there were a few songs that didn’t exactly sound like Spoon, but I enjoyed regardless. “Pink Up” opens with what sounds like a marimba, and it’s soothing, yet rhythmically attractive enough to get your head to rock along. But honestly, I couldn’t imagine Spoon performing this.

Looking at the silver lining, Hot Thoughts taunted me. “Shotgun” caught me by surprise with a more genuine sound. Lead singer Britt Daniel’s voice, which had been distorted in some way for most of the album, was finally unfiltered for the most part, and the genuinely funky instrumental behind him came as close to my expectations as any other song released.

But sadly all that glitters is not gold. Had the album ended on “Shotgun,” the ninth song, I would have been content as could be, but the closing track, “Us,” was extremely frustrating. There are no vocals. There is next to no guitar or drums. Instead, everything I loved about Spoon’s music was replaced with a cacophony of disharmonious sounds, ambience and small licks from woodwind instruments.

With Spoon’s other music, I could easily roll my windows down and rock out shamelessly as I totally drive the speed limit down East Lake Avenue, but with Hot Thoughts, it felt like homework to listen to the album more than once. While I admire the attempt to innovate, Spoon has strayed too far from their signature sound for my taste, leaving me only with disappointment.