When Spoon returned from a brief hiatus with 2014's They Want My Soul, it found the band having undergone their most drastic sonic upheaval to date, with daubs of mild psychedelia courtesy of new keyboardist Alex Fischel punctuating their anthemic rock sound. Their next and latest release, Hot Thoughts, takes us further down the rabbit hole on an album that's more dizzying and disorienting, as claustrophobic as it is intimate.
And it most definitely is intimate, easily taking the crown as Spoon's most sensuous album. But though there's a unified focus, it's hardly one-note, instead showcasing a nuanced relationship arc from the title track's internal lust on through the disco-tinged "First Caress," emotional piano ballad "I Ain't the One" and album closer "Us," a wordless, ambient saxophone duel.
It's not perfect; an attempt at playful sexual tension on "Do I Have to Talk You Into It" comes off as childish at best, problematic and coercive at worst, but the band manage to take another, more successful pass at it on "Can I Sit Next to You," which takes on a confident strut without sounding forced.
While the titles tell the story at surface level, the songs themselves fully immerse the listener in the emotional worlds their names hint at — again, thanks to Fischel's large repertoire of synth patches, though the rest of the band's willingness to run with it shouldn't be overlooked. The record's voyages into vast new territory — particularly on the aforementioned "Us" and the extended, dub-tinged centrepiece "Pink Up" — showcase a Spoon that's been emboldened, bringing their trademark charisma to tracks that, in other hands, wouldn't necessarily sound charismatic.
But for fans of the old Spoon, fret not: "Tear It Down," which continues their late-album anthem tradition previously established by hits such as "I Summon You" and "The Underdog," is as stomping as the band has ever been, with some bonus political commentary lobbed at the President for good measure. "Let them build a wall around us," sings Britt Daniel. "I don't care, we're gonna tear it down / It's just bricks and ill intentions."
Adding some new tricks to the mix while still finding time to play to their strengths, Hot Thoughts is another strong entry in Spoon's sterling discography. (Matador)