Spoon : Hot Thoughts

It’s been over 20 years since their debut album Telephono was released in 1996, and they have done nothing but look forward ever since. I have no problem saying that Spoon have released some of my generations best rock records, and they’ve done it continually on their own terms. Through a major label fumble that would have broke a lesser band, Spoon have built their sound on a steady diet of Wire, The Jam, the Kinks, the Pixies, and Brill Building pop. The result is something completely, well, Spoon.

Girls Can Tell was the album that, for me, officially started what would be their winning streak and Kill The Moonlight was the defining indie rock album of the 2000s. Britt Daniel’s white boy soul vocals and sparse, angular guitar work combined with Jim Eno’s powerful, clean drumming created a magic that producer Mike McCarthy harnessed in the studio.

From there the world was Spoon’s oyster.

Each album that followed redefined and honed their sound. Gimme Fiction, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Transference, and They Want My Soul all had something to offer and built on what came before. One thing each of these records have in common is a gradual lean into groovier territory. “I Turn My Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind” to “Don’t You Evah” and “Eddie’s Ragga” to “Who Makes Your Money” and “Nobody Gets Me But You”, all of these tracks showed a much more groove-centric Spoon giving their dancier tendencies some play time. With 2014s They Want My Soul there was a push to mix the indie rock heartbreak of earlier records with a much more polished sound. The result was one of their most acclaimed albums yet. Now with the release of Spoon’s ninth album, the excellent Hot Thoughts, there seems to be no reason to believe Spoon can’t conquer the world at large.

“Hot Thoughts” was the first single released and it’s this opening salvo that seems to mix everything we’ve come to love about this Austin band, which includes Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, as well as Rob Pope and Alex Fischel. Dance-y rhythms with a touch of Stones-y flair all covered with an air of urgency. Daniel’s vocals seem to only get better year after year, and this year is no different. “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” is keyboard heavy, but in a 80s drama kind of way. There is guitar on this album, but it’s used sparsely and when engaged to great effect. There are some heavy Divine Fits vibes here, too. With the addition of Alex Fischel, that band’s keyboard player and Daniels’ bandmate, the comparison is not without its merits. This is not a bad thing, either. “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” is the most fun I’ve heard Spoon have on record in a long time, and it doesn’t hurt that the piano melody is pretty similar to Gimme Fiction’s “The Beast And Dragon, Adored”. “First Caress” is another dance-y number that gives you bonus points for indie rock and dance floor cred. “Pink Up” is a beautifully ornamented track that is pushed more by the music than vocals. It’s space-y vibes and jazzy tendencies is a new sound for Spoon and it works well.

The album is produced by Dave Fridmann, who sat in on a few songs with the guys on They Want My Soul. Here, his presence is known but his “in the red” production style doesn’t define the sound of Hot Thoughts. If anything, the guys just use it as a new color to fill in the lines of their already stellar songs. This seems like a great fit for all.

“Can I Sit Next To You” is a full-on come on in song form. Daniel puts his come hither falsetto to good use here, while “I Ain’t The One” feels like a theme for complete heartbreak(it’s use in the season closer for Shameless was damn near perfect). It helps I’m a sucker for that Wurlitzer sound(and I might have a man crush on Britt Daniel.) “Tear It Down” could’ve been a b-side from the Gimme Fiction days. It’s sorta perfect. “Shotgun” sounds like Spoon got onto a “disco Kiss” kick for an afternoon. The result is this tight leather pants-wearing groove fest of a track. The album ends on a space-y jazz instrumental, which is again kind of a genius move.

Is Hot Thoughts Spoon’s best album? Not by a country mile. But guess what? 20 years in and Daniel and Eno are still redefining themselves each time out. They’ve got this tight knit crew after all these years that seem to have found the right amount of slick, weird, heartfelt, and funky that “get it”. Head back in the wayback machine to 1996. Look around the scene and find the music tastemakers at that time, then head back to 2017. Of that musical might, who’s still moving forward? Who’s still pushing and still vital? It’s a small group, and Spoon are at the forefront.

8. 3 out of 10

 

 

Hot Thoughts In My Mind

So Spoon is dropping a new album called Hot Thoughts in March. Whenever there’s a new Spoon album I always get a little geared up, know what I mean? There’s just something about this Austin band that exudes cool and slickness. Now normally that would keep me away from a band, cause who needs all that coolness and slickness. Sounds dangerous, like unsalted sidewalks in winter. But Spoon, they’re different. As monstrously cool and debonair as Britt Daniel comes across, at his core he’s just a nerdy dude that loves good music. A hopeless romantic that’s gotten that muscle in his chest broke a few times in his life. Probably picked on by the jocks in high school because he dug that sad-faced melancholy clown Robert Smith and got overly excited when he heard the Kinks’ “David Watts”. Daniel is my kind of people. So he gets a pass for being the James Bond of indie rock.

The lead single, title track “Hot Thoughts” seems to be riding the ever beautiful sheen of 2014s They Want My Soul. It’s a dance-y, rump-shaking number that once it kicks in kind of has this Stones-y “Monkey Man” vibe before getting all hand clap-y and dramatic with some great synth swaths and Daniel’s simple but eloquent guitar work. The album is produced by Spoon with Dave Fridmann, who worked with them on a few tracks on Soul. This time he stuck around for the long haul and his bombastic approach is present, but things aren’t quite in the red. No crackling drums or over pushed faders. It’s a crisp and tight sound. Really, the evolution of Spoon’s sound.

This band is destined to be one of the greats. With the last record, and now Hot Thoughts, I think Spoon are on a collision course with greatness. I think they’re in a position where they can pretty much do whatever they want at this point. Much like Fridmann’s fearless freak pals The Flaming Lips. The Lips have been with Warner Bros Records since 1992. They seem to be able to put out whatever they want, make gummy skulls with flash drives in them, experiment as much as they want on a major label’s dime, and just keep going. If The Lips can make a 24-hour song, I think Spoon can achieve some serious historical music cred. I mean, they already have pretty much. From hear on out everything else is icing on the cake.

Hot Thoughts is out March 17th via Matador Records.

Before Construction

trans·fer·ence

-the action of transferring something or the process of being transferred.

-the redirection to a substitute, usually a therapist, of emotions that were originally felt in childhood (in a phase of analysis called transference neurosis ).

 

For me, Spoon is a band that delivers every time they put out a record. They just have this essence of cool about them. Singer Britt Daniel has swagger for miles and a soulful howl in his singing that elevates the music to a whole other level. His guitar playing is minimalist but says everything that needs to be said. There’s a post-punk quality to his playing that goes from jagged stabs of chords to eloquent noise. Drummer Jim Eno is the massive backbone of Spoon. His playing, like Daniel’s guitar work, is minimal but effective. He’s got a power behind his playing that you just don’t see much these days. Rob Pope, Eric Harvey, and Alex Fischel round out the current line up of the band, but Spoon has always been Britt Daniel and Jim Eno.

fullsizerenderBack in January of 2010 the band released Transference, a sort of out of left field record that came out as a bit of a surprise at the beginning of a new year. Their previous releases, 2005s Gimme Fiction and 2007s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga were seeing the band build on their minimalist approach to Wire and Kinks-inspired rock and roll to great effect. Adding more instrumentation and lightening up the darker corners with Brill Building pop sheen, Spoon were becoming pop confectioners of the highest order. So when they come out 2 1/2 years later with the minimal Transference it came as a bit of a shock. Everyone that loved the band up to that point didn’t really know what to make of it. It wasn’t like it was a bad album. It was just different. Rawer, less ornamented, and not nearly as pop inflected as the last two albums. So does that mean it’s a lesser album? I don’t think so.

This album came out at a time in my life when things were changing for me. A rough patch on the road we call life had pretty much stopped me in my tracks. You know how you lose sight of things? And your idiotic behavior and self-serving thoughts aren’t quite seen for what they are by you until you’re pulled out of your own headspace and can see how things really look? Yeah, well that was me in January of 2010. Those growing pains of a growing family, responsibility, and where you fit in that new world all get discombobulated. For me I lost sight of who I was and it took hitting a wall hard and fast to get myself back on track. Transference was the soundtrack to a cold, snowy January and a lot of desperate reflection for me. It’s minimalist approach and stripped down emotion hit me hard. What some heard as kind of basic and “meh”, I saw as this defiant statement. No window dressing or grand ornamentation this time around, just a hard look at chords, rhythms, and words coming together. In my mental state it was an album I needed to hear. While it wasn’t a panned record by any means, I think a lot of people just let it sort of go by the way side. An interesting, albeit non-statement of a record. For me, it was an uncomfortable look at what I’d let myself become and a starting point at redefining who I was as a person.

Up to that point I’d attempted to compartmentalize myself. I was a husband. Then a dad. Then a musician. Then this J. Hubner character. If you can live that way and not lose sight of your warm, gooey center then great. For me, I feel it’s an unhealthy way to live. Certain sides of you tend to get jealous and want more spotlight than the others. Most of the time it’s a side that shouldn’t take precedent. The id and ego having a field day, while responsibility sits in the rain in front of the school waiting to be picked up. I’ve learned that I am all those things, all the time. I don’t ever put away the dad hat, or husband hat, or musician hat, or me hat. I’m all those things. I’m a multiple hat guy these days. I have been for nearly 6 years. I’m a much happier person, too. There’s a writer hat I wear, too. That’s the one that I think truly saved me. Writing gives me an outlet whenever I need it. It lets me take all the thoughts, opinions, and gnarled sentences in my head and put them in some sort of sequence. It still may not make any sense, but at least they’re out of my head. At least I can move on to something new.

But about Transference

img_2755Opening track “Before Destruction” sort of felt like the opening paragraph in a novel about a character full of himself and in need of a “come to Jesus” moment. “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty/Everyone loves you for your black eye/They feast on the abundance of your house/Your love”. I won’t say that sentence makes complete sense, but there’s something in there that resonated with me. It still does, but for different reasons. “Is Love Forever” followed with a two minute burst of jumpy pop paranoia. “I grew up in a supermarket it was there they told me/If they can’t find me they won’t leave without me now or ever/ All I need’s a word to get me started, all I need’s a look”. “The Mystery Zone” eludes to a place “where your dad’s not around” and “all the trouble you looked for all your life” you’ll “find it for sure”. “Written In Reverse” is a big rock and roll number, complete with Stones-y guitar riffs and Britt Daniel in full rock and soul form. Side two is slower in pace but packs a punch with the lo fi rocker “Trouble Comes Running”, the piano ballad “Goodnight Laura”, and the new wave funk of “Nobody Gets Me But You”. The best track on side B is the driving and desperate “Got Nuffin”. Each song seems to sway from hopefulness to desperation on Transference, and “Got Nuffin” is the peak of that desperation. “And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows/Got nothing to lose but emptiness and hang-ups” Daniel sings over a driving rhythm and patches of guitar noise.

Maybe it was the indecision and emotional aloofness that appealed to me so much back then. Listening to this album nowadays it feels like a band in a holding position. They seem to be looking to find a direction to head. Instead of just not doing anything they decided to put that confusion and indecisiveness to work. Transference is a record that to some may have sounded like a band right before destruction. To me it sounded like a band before construction. A band rebuilding. I needed to hear that then, as I was sort of a man nearing destruction. I’ve been constructing ever since.

I’m a work in progress, but there’s progress nonetheless.

Favorite Albums of 2014

new favorite albumsIt’s been a long time coming(nearly a year by my count) since we’ve done a favorite album of the year list. Upon looking back on the year I’m pretty astounded by how many great records came out. When I first started thinking about it, I was struggling to remember more than a handful of albums. Was this a sign that the year kind of sucked for new music? No, not at all. This was the year of growers. If they weren’t growers they immediately went for the jugular. There were so many albums that I spun for weeks straight. They literally stayed on the platter for two weeks and got played like they were going out of style. Hell, I even had to upgrade my cart this year(to the Ortofon 2M Red…it’s a beauty.)

While there were no OK Computers or Yankee Hotel Foxtrots, there were albums that grew and blossomed into records that I will love for years and years to come. Hi, and welcome to my favorite records of 2014.

30. Cult of Youth – Final Days

Cult-Of-Youth-Final-DaysAre you looking for some music to soundtrack a bloodletting? Have you been hankering for a sound reminiscent of OMD being eviscerated by Bauhaus? Look no further than Cult of Youth.

Final Days is dark, dreary, and abysmally cheery at times.

29. Wye Oak – Shriek

wye oakIf you’re familiar with Wye Oak you’d know that Jenn Wasner’s smokey vocals and impressive six-string work defined their downbeat, slowcore sound. This time around the guitar was left in the other room and Andy Stack put his production work to the test as synths and dream pop took the stage. The result is striking and quite lovely at times.

28. Craft Spells – Nausea

CT200 CraftSpells Type_ExperimentsJustin Vallesteros mixed things up with Nausea. He mixed things up with a live band in the studio and turned his 80s electro sound into something more intimate, darker, and lush. It’s a beautiful album that takes Vallesteros’ songwriting to a new level.

27. Electric Wurms – Musik, Die Schuer zu Twerk

Electric_Wurms_-_Packshot_1024x1024I’ll be honest, I was expecting more of the same with this Flaming Lips-related project. But Steve Drozd proved me wrong and made a pretty damn good prog/psych album. It’s not changing the world, but there’s some damn good psych jams on this record and Drozd proves he could pull off the ringmaster job just fine.

26. Bear in Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old

bearBrooklyn’s Bear in Heaven continue to hone their icy synths and danceable beats on Time Is Over One Day Old. While they still haven’t quite reached the epic peaks of 2009s masterpiece Beast Rest Forth Mouth, Jon Philpot and company are still writing great tunes that mix neo-futuristic synthesizers and massive live drums.

25. Blonde Redhead – Barragan

BRThe formula hasn’t changed much for Blonde Redhead since their great Misery Is A Butterfly. Melancholy melodies, dream pop bliss, and shoegaze haze have been the themes of their albums for years, and Barragan continues this trend. More intricate and immediate than 2010s Penny Sparkle, Barragan feels mature and exquisite in its details. I think this is what they call growing old gracefully.

24. The Night Terrors – Spiral Vortex

spiral vortexMelbourne’s The Night Terrors make beautifully dark music. Somewhere between floating through space in a dead spacecraft and walking through some hallucinogenic nightmare. Spiral Vortex is filled with slinking synths, theremin melodies, and prog drumming. It’s a killer musical journey into the mind’s eye of the universe.

23. Papir – IIII

papirDenmark’s premier psych three piece Papir have been putting out stellar and expansive jams for a few years now. IIII is an atmospheric space jam that ebbs and flows from mellow moments of peace and explosive guitar jams that would put most “power trios” to shame.

22. Whirr – Sway

whirrSway is the culmination of one full-length and two or three EPs over the course of three or four years. It’s the perfect mix of wall-of-shoegaze guitar noise and at times serene, dreamy soundscapes. Vocals that blend into the shapes and colors of the music so as to make it hard to discern them from the music. A beautiful and aggressive record.

21. A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent

A-Sunny-Day-In-Glasgow-Sea-When-AbsentThis album is pop music of the future. ASDIG are almost impossible to categorize. Their songs are huge pop explosions but with this introverted, indie aesthetic. If Passion Pit can be big, there’s no reason for Sea When Absent to rule every set of headphones from Seattle to Boston. Neo-futuristic pop confection.

20. United Waters – Sunburner

United-Waters-cover-575x575This album just appeared from out of nowhere. It’s strange, eerie, and at times disconcerting. And yet at the same time it lulls you into a numbed comfort with it’s recorded underwater vibe. Guitars hum like a dull toothache and melodies crackle under rust-covered production.

19. Ashrae Fax – Never Really Been Into It

ashrae faxThis album was like taking the wayback machine to 1981. Ashrae Fax sound like a cross between The Motels, Cocteau Twins, and Siouxsie Sioux; in other words it’s girl power from the 4AD days of indie and goth. Never Really Been Into It gives me all those good feelings I used to get in the car as a kid running errands with my mom. Car radio playing pop songs, ones I’d know and ones I didn’t. Songs that stuck in your head for days. Ashrae Fax make songs like that. Songs that stick.

18. Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather

gunnSteve Gunn’s Way Out Weather has both the essence of classic, breezy guitar jams in the key of Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, and the like, and also a sense of real progression and jazz improvisation headiness. Gunn is one of the best guitarists and songwriters working today. Way Out Weather proves it.

17. Jakob Skott – Taurus Rising

taurusCausa Sui drummer Jakob Skott likes to make heavy synth-driven, sci-fi-themed instrumental jams in his free time. He released the excellent Amor Fati in March of this year, and in December he dropped a sort of companion piece album called Taurus Rising. It seems to follow the formula he wrote on Amor Fati, but this time around there’s much more emphasis on the groove. This album grooves like some weird spaced-out funk concept album.

16. Mogwai – Rave Tapes

mogwaiFor this album, Mogwai turned down the amps a bit and turned up the synthesizers. The result is at times an ominous and atmospheric record. While not for everyone and die-hard Mogwai fans, I found this album to be pretty damn great.

15. Real Estate – Atlas

real estateAtlas sounds like a band coming to terms with getting older. Revisiting the old haunts and realizing you’re not the same person that used to hang out there. It’s not depressing. It’s actually quite freeing. These songs tell the stories of being cool with growing up and moving on.

14. Mac Demarco – Salad Days

demarcoMac Demarco’s Salad Days is jizz jazz pop bliss. He sounds like he might actually be ready to make a go at this album making thing. While 2 had moments of great, catchy pop songwriting, Salad Days is an all out classic pop record. He’s still a freak, but a freak that is one hell of a songwriter.

13. Causa Sui – Pewt’r Sessions 3

causa-sui-pewtr-sessions-31The Pewt’r Sessions that Causa Sui put out are like this aural trip into some far-out galaxy. They’re pure improvisational bliss each time, and Pewt’r Sessions 3 is no different. A one day jam session, then said jam was cut, edited, and pasted Teo Macero-style into cohesive, expansive jams. It’s like a psych freakout version of Bitches Brew.

12. Ty Segall – Manipulator 

segallI think Ty Segall has made a masterpiece in Manipulator. A double album filled with chunks of glam bliss in the key of Bowie and T. Rex. This is the first album by Segall that has made me listen over and over again. It’s his most hi fi record, and has some of the tightest drums and bass on anything he’s done. It’s a classic double album.

11. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

st. vincentAnnie Clark is a hell of a guitarist and a hell of a songwriter. On her self-titled record both come together beautifully. Her time spent with David Byrne has given her the gift of quirkiness and funkiness. She seriously grooves on this album. I couldn’t stop listening to this thing when it came out and I continue to now. Everything comes together beautifully.

10. Nothing – Guilty of Everything

FullSizeRender (5)There’s something about Domenic Palermo’s back story that makes Nothing’s music all the more visceral and tragic. Running around Philly in cars with friends, whacked out on whatever, listening to My Bloody Valentine not really caring what happens either way. Thankfully for us(and himself) he got it together enough make a go at this this music thing. Guilty of Everything is this mix of both a massive wall of guitar and beautiful, dream-like vocals. It has the dreaminess of shoegaze, but almost this oppressively heaviness that carries it. There isn’t a bad song on this album. And if the new split Nothing did with Whirr is any indication, things are only going to get better.

9. Spoon – They Want My Soul

FullSizeRender (13)Britt Daniel can pretty much sing anything and make it sound cool as hell. He’s got a soulful, gritty yelp that has helped to establish Spoon as one America’s best rock and roll bands your neighbor’s never heard of. They pretty much laid the groundwork for what should be the considered the proto-typical indie rock album with their masterpiece, 2002s Kill The Moonlight. Ever since then Daniel and drummer Jim Eno have only improved, expanded, and honed their skills, both in their songwriting and studio prowess.

After 2010s misunderstood Transference, Spoon took a small hiatus. Daniel formed Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner, formerly of Handsome Furs and put out a great record in 2012 called A Thing Called Divine Fits, while Eno took on production duties for a number of artists at his own Austin recording studio. The break paid off as They Want My Soul sounds like a band rejuvenated and filled with all that piss and vinegar that made them the indie rock icons they are today. “Inside Out” is one of the best pop tracks you’ll never hear on the radio. Period.

8. Cymbals Eat Guitar – Lose

FullSizeRender (10)Lose is the culmination of five years worth of hype, tragedy, growing up, and touring. Joseph D’Agostino got a lot of attention for a 20 year old kid just learning who or what he was. Before most bands even find their sound with the second or third album, CEG had accolades and high praise for their self-released Why There Are Mountains in 2009. Lenses Alien followed in 2011 and proved that first record was no fluke. While not pushing them forward artistically, it sounded like a band that was getting comfortable with what they were creating. Lose takes all those elements and puts them together into a little masterpiece of an album. D’Agostino sounds like a songwriter who knows exactly what he wants out of a song. “Jackson” and “Laramie” are epic tracks filled with guitar squall and melodies that go for days, while “Child Bride”, “Place Names”, and “Lifenet” are pure pop bliss.

7. Sinoia Caves – Beyond The Black Rainbow

FullSizeRender (8)Jeremy Schmidt, aka Sinoia Caves, makes music you can zone out to. He makes soundscapes with vintage synths, organs, and atmospheric whines and yelps courtesy of tube-powered machinery. In his day gig as keyboardist for Black Mountain he helps to add that bit of 70s flair to the already heady, stoned vibe of their Black Sabbath-meets-Uriah Heep sound. As Sinoia Caves the music is spacier, creepier even. His soundtrack to the cult sci-fi film from 2010 is just as much a reason to watch the movie as the creepy set pieces themselves are. It’s a killer album, and just as easily enjoyed as a standalone piece of art.

6. This Will Destroy You – Another Language

FullSizeRender (12)I’m new to the wonders of This Will Destroy You, but I’m so glad we’ve finally been introduced. I think most folks would call their sound post-rock, and I guess they wouldn’t be completely wrong. But really, TWDY make music completely their own. Another Language feels like this soundtrack to an amazing discovery. It pulsates and flows like lava erupting from the earth. It’s a soundtrack to an open mind. It’s the score to just being. It’s absolutely stunning.

5. Medicine – Home Everywhere

FullSizeRender (6)Not only did Brad Laner, Beth Thompson, and Jim Goodall reappear on the scene after 18 years as Medicine last year, but they dropped one of 2013s best records. To The Happy Few had all the noise and squall you love about their music, but it was tweaked and prodded to absolute sonic perfection by the now studio wizard Brad Laner who had many years of studio work under his belt by then.

Just a little over a year later Medicine has given us yet another new album. Home Everywhere is not what you’d think it would be. It’s not the safe, equally delicious follow-up you would assume a band like Medicine would give us. No, it’s actually one of the most far out, noisy, psychedelically pop records you’ll hear this year, or many years past. It’s at times gleefully upbeat, painfully jagged, and as danceable as something that would’ve risen out of the drug daze of the Madchester scene. “Turning” moves along on a driving drum beat that sounds like it’s falling apart at the seams, but never does. “They Will Not Die” opens with the clang of what sounds like the Junkyard Gang before opening into absolute pop bliss. Vocals layered like The Four Freshmen ran through some trippy, LSD-laced filter.

Home Everywhere is one of the best albums you haven’t heard this year.

4. Tweedy – Sukierae

FullSizeRender (9)As soon as opening track “Please Don’t Let Me Be So Misunderstood” opens Sukierae you know you’re not just getting Jeff Tweedy-lite. It’s brash, angry, and rocks like a mother. What was going to be a set of solo tunes by Jeff turned into a family affair when son Spencer joined his dad for these sessions. What you get is 20 songs that range from gritty rock ‘n roll, folksy singer-songwriter fare, and catchy pop. Sukierae breathes and sways. It feels breathy and crisp. Jeff Tweedy hasn’t felt or sounded this laid back and open to something different since Loose Fur’s Born Again In The USA. And as far as Spencer’s drumming goes? All I have to say is look out Mr. Kotche.

Sukierae is the beanbag chair and basement chill double album you didn’t know you needed.

3. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

FullSizeRender (11)Yeah sure, Mr. Yorke isn’t changing much up here. He’s still dabbling in glitchy electronics, strange facial expressions, and even stranger dance moves. But what did you expect? What he does he does it brilliantly. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes feels even more isolated and dystopian than even The Eraser, yet there seems to be something there on a more personal level. A song like “Interference” feels like the reminiscing of a tired, lonely soul as he sings “We stare into each other’s eyes, like jackdaws, like ravens”, then later stating “In the future we will change our numbers, and lose contact.” Its’ a striking track amongst many.

If Yorke continued making records like Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and no more Radiohead, I’d be perfectly content.

2. Jakob Skott – Amor Fati

FullSizeRender (14)Jakob Skott’s Amor Fati is a soundtrack to some non-existent, dystopian, science fiction movie you never saw in 1980. It’s atmospherics are created with nothing more than a funny little analog synthesizer and Skott’s impressive skills behind a drum set. The results are electric-era Miles Davis jamming with Stewart Copeland and Bernie Worrell. It’s a tripped out instrumental album that gets headier, groovier, and funkier after each listen.

Denmark has no idea what they’ve got in this native son. Amor Fati is tops.

1. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

FullSizeRender (7)Adam Granduciel’s soundtrack to anxiety, love lost, and attempting to find your place in the world when it feels all the seats have been taken is donning many year end lists number one spots, and that’s not surprising. It’s, in my opinion, the best record made this year…that I’ve heard. But it would take a miracle of an album to push it out of the number one spot on my list.

The War On Drugs do this amazing thing where they sound so big, expansive, and canyon-esque while still retaining this painful intimacy. Yes it sounds a hell of a lot like artists like Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits. The big, anthemic tracks those guys took to the top of the charts have certainly made an impression on Granduciel as he attempts his own version of that kind of 80s anthem. But unlike those artists, The War On Drugs put a psychedelic take on it. The colors bleed together, mixing songs into one another. You get the feeling of waking from an anesthetic. The hazy, numbed feeling that comes over you when you begin to realize where you’re at and where you’ve been. “Under The Pressure”, “Red Eyes”, and “Suffering” are anthems for the lonely and just barely getting by. It’s melancholy, but uplifting. It’s a soundtrack to a long, evening drive to nowhere in particular.

It’s the best anxiety has ever sounded.

Here’s a couple reissues that completely blew me away this year.

Viet Cong – Cassette

viet congThis Canadian band that rose from the ashes of the band Women is something to behold. Post-punk and noisy jangle pop reign supreme on this album that was originally just a cassette-only release back in 2012. Mexican Summer reissued it over the summer on vinyl and it hasn’t left my turntable since it hit my porch over a week ago. Look for their Jagjaguwar debut in January. Until then, get a hold of this album toot sweet.

Rudiger Lorenz – Invisible Voices

invisble voicesGerman pharmacist Rudiger Lorenz was a rather prolific musician that never got the recognition he deserved when he was alive. By day he was a pharmacist, by night he built his own synths and recorded tons of self-released albums in the 70s and 80s. One of those was the epic Invisible Voices. It was filled with atmospheric, musical landscapes that could soundtrack a sunset or a space walk. It’s a unique take on new age or ambient music. Mexican Summer reissued this classic synth record for the world to appreciate and love.

Z(Bernard Szajner) – Visions of Dune

zAnother classic synth record originally recorded in 1979 as a concept album based on Frank Herbet’s classic science fiction novel, Bernard Szajner made a dense, dark, and ominous record filled with whooshes, blips, bleeps, and even the occasional funky beat. It’s a hell of a great listen and one that boded very well from a reissuing. Give it a listen and get lost in the world of Dune(and Z.)

 

Okay, I’m out of here. Happy Holidays. See you in 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon :: They Want My Soul

the want my soulAs soon as the opening riff of “Rent I Pay” opens the new album from Spoon you know you’re in for a hell of a ride. With it’s Stones-y swagger and Britt Daniels’ vocals ripping through the speakers like razor blades it’s a pronouncement that Daniels and Eno have found that magic once again. Not that I think they ever lost the magic they nurtured and honed in Austin, Texas all those years ago. They just needed to walk away and do something else for a bit(Eno producing other artists while Daniels played in Divine Fits) and come back with fresh ears. What their break has done is given us the best Spoon album since 2007s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

They Want My Soul, Spoon’s newest long player since 2010s misunderstood Transference sounds like a band having a great time playing with each other. I don’t think the Spoon of 2010 could have written something so earnest and beautiful as “Inside Out”, a lilting pop track that is as good as anything you’ll hear on any album this year. “Time’s gone inside out/Time gets distorted when there’s intense gravity” Daniels sings, later declaring “There’s intense gravity in you/ I’m just your satellite” as synth strings carry us gently through. On “Do You”, a good vibes song that should be  the song of the summer(if that’s really a thing), Daniels belts in his rock n’ soul croon “I was on 45th I was half out of the bag/ Yeah I knew that you saw me you laughed when I looked back”, later asking the question “Do you wanna get understood?”

Listening to these songs you can tell that Daniels, Eno, Rob Pope, Eric Harvey, and new keyboardist Alex Fischel(of Daniels side project Divine Fits) are here to do one thing and one thing only: write great hooks and get us moving. Before, it seemed Spoon were at the forefront of minimal experimentation with a healthy dose of Kinks royal pop to lessen the sting of Daniels’ Wire and Pixies leanings. There’s still those backwards whooshes and reverbed blasts that come up from under the mix, but they don’t take precedent here. What takes precedent is songwriting and Daniels’ soulful growl.

“Outlier” is this tense, dance-y number with the soon-to-be classic line “And I remember when you walked out of garden state/ because you had taste you had taste you had no time to waste”. Whether that’s a knock on New Jersey or the Zach Braff flick, it doesn’t matter; it’s still snarky and beautiful. “They Want My Soul” has the pop giddiness of primo-era Hall and Oates, if The Jam had written “Kiss On My List”. There hasn’t been this much pop glee on a Spoon album since “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”. Then, their excellent cover of the Ann Margaret song “I Just Don’t Understand” gets the Mike McCarthy treatment as he comes in to mix this excellent, jaunty piano-driven track with some of Daniels best-sounding vocals. If you’re not aware, Mike McCarthy produced all of Spoon’s albums up to Transference, which was self-produced. The guy doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion. I always thought he was to Spoon as Nigel Godrich was to Radiohead.

Just my two cents, folks.

“Let Me Be Mine” is longing and beautiful jangle rock at it’s finest, while album closer “New York Kiss” sounds like modern dance floor pop. Big disco beat and great synths carry the track as Daniels sings “There ain’t a thing I miss/ Not like your New York kiss”.

Do I wanna get understood? Sure. But I’m happy with They Want My Soul. Welcome back, Spoon. You’ve been missed.

9.2 out of 10

 

New Releases To Squeal About: Spoon and Bear In Heaven

spoon-rip-608x339I just got done yapping about all the music that’s come out so far in 2014 that I dig, and that 2014 hasn’t really been as spectacular as 2013 or 2012 for that matter new music-wise. Well I may have to eat those words. If I do, I’d prefer steak fries, coleslaw, and a diet coke to go with those words.

Two of my favorite bands have released new songs this week. Spoon shared “R.I.P.” off their forthcoming album They Want My Soul and Bear In Heaven gave us “Time Between” off their follow-up to 2012s I Love You, It’s Cool called Time Is Over One Day Old. After listening to both of these songs several times over the last 24 hours I can firmly say that I’m officially giddy with excitement for both of these albums. You should be, too.

Spoon have been a favorite of mine since 2004 when I bought both their albums Kill The Moonlight and Girls Can Tell on a whim at midnight after seeing them on Austin City Limits. I’ve never regretted that purchase(though I did regret eating that microwave popcorn afterwards.) The last album they put out was 2010s Transference. While a lot of folks seemed indifferent to it I rather loved Transference(both the album and the psychological phenomenon.) I bought the Got Nuffin 12″ single in the summer of 2009 and couldn’t wait for the album. While it wasn’t as warm as something like Gimme Fiction or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga or as slickly innovative as say something like Kill The Moonlight, I felt it was still a hell of an album. Britt has stayed busy with The Divine Fits(if you haven’t heard their album, you should), and Jim Eno has been busy producing some great records at his Public Hi Fi recording studio in Austin, TX, but when I heard they were in the studio I was psyched for some new Spoon. “R.I.P”, or “Rent I Pay” is a welcomed chunk of gritty, Stones-y rock and Daniels sounds as wounded and soulful as ever. The Austin indie rock Gods have enlisted the help of Dave Fridmann to help produce this album and by the sound of Jim Eno’s drums I’d say he’s working some of his magic on Spoon. I cannot wait to hear this record. The preorder for the vinyl is supposed to come up this week. I’m on it.

 

I’m not sure how I came to own Bear In Heaven’s Beast Rest Forth Mouth. I think I saw an ad for the record back in early 2010 and downloaded it on a whim. It was the best “whim” I could imagine as I ended up loving these Brooklyn synth mongers immediately. They blended perfectly the cold, distant blue-ish glow of analog synthesizers and the warm, tribal, bombast of acoustic drums to create a darkly rich sound. Imagine Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Bauhaus being contorted into a band from Brooklyn and you might have an idea where they’re coming from. A year later I bought this excellent album on delicious red vinyl(with blue sleeve) and never looked back. In 2012 they released the more uptempo I Love You, It’s Cool and my love and admiration remained steadfast. The album seemed to lose a bit of the darkness and in its place was more of a dance vibe, but still there remained this cold distance and neo-futuristic, chromed-out pulse. Now, with Time Is Over One Day Old Bear In Heaven sound like they’ve returned to more of that pounding, tribal feel from Beast Rest Forth Mouth, though with some of that dance-y flair. Despite their sort-of progressive sound, singer Jon Philpot always adds an emotional center to the songs. He makes the analog synth drones and tribal beats relatable. Human. “Time Between” is the welcome return of one of my favorite bands.

 

Okay, so all the naysayers out there complaining it’s been a slow year for new music you can now officially stop naysaying. There’s plenty of amazing music already released this year, and more on its way. Here’s two of them right here. If you still don’t believe me, it’s okay. I love you, it’s cool.

How I Spent Record Store Day 2014

paige and claire nnnI woke at 6:30am. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. Coffee brewing at extra strong. Karma Records was opening at 8am, so I needed to be at full throttle by then. I didn’t know what to expect. My plan was to get there at 7:30am and wait out in the cold, biting air like an idiot. There were things I wanted in that damn store and by God I was going to get them, come Hell or high water. Sure, I could’ve set my alarm for 1:30am and headed east to Fort Wayne. Wait in line at 2:30am at Neat Neat Neat Records like some freak. I could’ve done that. I guess I’m not dedicated enough. Or maybe it’s that I’m a 40 year old man that has a tiny shred of dignity. I’ll leave that crazy shit to the young punks and troglodytes. Those midnight creepers who turned off their PS3s long enough to rock a 60oz can of energy drink, munch on some Taco Bell, and inhale/exhale scented vapors all the while waiting on a desolate and dark street corner. My toupee’s off to ya, ya shits.

Nah, 7:30am is just fine with me. I knew it wasn’t gonna be bare knuckle brawling to get into Karma Records. And I knew that I’d see some friendly faces in line. I was right. Well, I was wrong about 7:30am. I got there at 7:45am. Pulled up and no one was outside the door. Win. As I parked in front of the storefront a kid got out of a beat up Cadillac and got in line before me. Newbie? Never seen ’em before. He seemed new to the whole RSD thing. I thought that was cool. We’ve won another over. He mentioned something about a Lorde album he wanted. Good to hear. I didn’t have to beat him down for something I wanted. Safe. For now. Within 30 seconds we had ten people in line. Sure, that’s small fries compared to those desolate big city street corners. But for a town that has a church every half mile and a third McDonalds in the works this is a big deal. A line outside a record store in this religious, Christian conservative haven usually would mean a protest against the release of a gangsta rap album; or the Dixie Chicks. Either that or tickets to see Head East and Ambrosia at the Goshen Theater. No, this was a line with folks wanting to buy vinyl. This is a good thing.

8am. BAM! We’re in. The Lorde kid makes a b-line looking for nothing in particular while I use my x-ray vision to find those ear treats. Tame Impala…BOOM! Spoon…POW! Flaming Lips…KAPOW! I can breathe. I got the three big ones on my list. I back away and let the feeding frenzy begin. Karma did it right for the folks in this nowhere special Lake City. Three folks stood behind the counter; nervous, excited, ready for bloodshed. No blood was shed. Folks were cool. No pushing or shoving, not barely a word even spoken. As the crowd thinned out a bit I went back in for the scraps. The chum. Three 7 inch singles were mine. Of Montreal, Dino Jr, and Flaming Lips,…two of which were the Side By Side series. Very cool. Nice reminders of RSD 2014 for RSD 2015. Owner/operator John Vance pointed me in the direction of Hebronix. Yuck’s former head guy’s newest album. “Why not?” I thought. It’s RSD. Plus it’s on green vinyl.

Tis the season.

The evening took me and my gang on an odyssey in an Odyssey to the great Fort Wayne to hear the sultry sounds of Streetlamps for Spotlights at the mighty Neat Neat Neat Records. Morrison Agen is the ringmaster at NNN and in center ring was Jason Davis, Jay Hackbush, and Ryan Holquist playing a mix of fractured rock and shattered post-punk. It was a beautiful thing to see and hear. Another beautiful thing was to witness this with my kiddos and wife in tow. Sure, the live music -loud-ish for young ears- wasn’t quite the kiddos version of fun family night, but the wife and I tapped our toes and relived a youth filled with concerts and stage lights. Twas a great experience. Morrison also hooked me up with one of those RSD-exclusives Mr. Vance couldn’t get his hands on: Medicine’s Part Time Punks Session. Some NNN swag was purchased in the form of t-shirt, slip mat, and some cool buttons for the kids. Oh, and the Streetlamps for Spotlights vinyl was firmly placed in my grubby hands by the time we left South Calhoun Street.

By 7pm RSD had wound down for me. Hands full of great vinyl, and conversations had with very cool folks I know and quite like; plus some conversations with folks I’d never met before in my life but hope to see again. This is what community and fellowship feel like in my world. Everyone coming together with a common love: music. There are no fake smiles or attempts at flaccid earnestness. It’s a tribe of music lovers and vinyl eaters. Spinners of the plastic; 140gram, 180gram, 200gram,…wham, bam, thank you mam! The record store is the Church I choose to worship in. The creator of my universe sits in a 12 inch sleeve and waits for me to spin His wholly words through needle and stylus arm. 33 1/3? 45? Take your pick.

The speakers spit the meaning, you dig?

spoon and tame impalalips and hebronixmedicine albummedicine vinylsfs albumsfs vinylhebronix vinyla place to burynnn slip mat

Even Otto loves vinyl...and his daddy.
Even Otto loves vinyl…and his daddy.