Long ago, for some reason, Wand got lumped in with the Ty Segall crowd; that’s fair, considering songwriter Cory has played with Ty in various projects. But, as we’ve seen over the last two releases, Wand is entirely an act on their own territory. This latest single finds the band walking the territory between bouncier elements of Spoon and the lingering melodies of Radiohead. Maybe this is what California’s version of Spiritualized sounds like? Whatever it is, there’s no heavy riffs needed anymore, just the creative process and the perfect execution. Look for the band’s new album this September via Drag City…surely we’ll be hearing much more leading up to its release.
Everyone knows it–Spoon are a force to be reckoned with. Twenty plus years of crafting relevant and consistent rock music and 9 full length LPs under their belts hasn’t slowed them down in the slightest. Sure, the band has had ups and downs over the years, but their lows aren’t so much missteps as sidesteps. Hot Thoughtsis by no means a sidestep, but rather a confident stride in a marathon of a career.
It’s so much so a given that any record that Britt Daniel touches will be worth your listening ear that I debated whether or not to review this record for a while. With the release of the lead singles, “Hot Thoughts” and “Can I Sit Next To You,” the band hinted that the album would be jam packed full of disco-studded indie rock jams and they weren’t bluffing. The aforementioned singles are but the icing on the cake that you’ll find yourself gorging on time and time again. That being said, the singles make for some damn good icing. “Hot Thoughts” is a radio ready hit that plays with what you’ve come to expect from the band in that simmers to a raging boil, the instruments packing the bite and snarl before Daniel’s vocals do. Tinkering xylophone sounds make Eno’s always steady percussion a little spicy, while the guitars are tight knit and signature. “Can I Sit Next To You” is sneaky, sliding to your side with its handclap beat and snuggles into your arm with its waves of smoky synths.
There are no dull moments on Hot Thoughts. But the songs aren’t just catchy– they’re also musically quite interesting and push into realms that Spoon haven’t stretched into before. The band tries their hand at disco with “First Caress,” which features vocals from Sharon Van Etten and is a full on dance tune. We get a softer track(for Spoon) on “Pink Up,” whose musical motif carries over into the ending track. Shimmering percussion lies at the heart of this song while Daniel whispers lyrics like “Everything you think we are, we are” into your ear, as if he knows he has you under his thumb and knows you like it. But then “I Ain’t The One,” cuts this ‘cool-guy’ persona back down to raw sincerity and emotion that Spoon still embed into their work.
Personally, the song that has pulled me back the most is “Whisper I’ll listen to hear it,” which has landed itself high on this album as well as Spoon’s entire discography. It’s here that the band really shows their finesse and sleekness; the song is effortlessly cool while being musically interesting and involved, a far stretch from formulaic or dialed in. Pulsating synths make their entrance first, setting a foreboding tone before Daniel and some cutty electric guitar join in, letting you know that this is only the beginning. Just when you’re settling into this pace, hanging on every lyric, the rest of the band joins in and the band steps on the gas pedal, launching into a fast paced, white hot hit, complete with a non-cheesy and perfectly placed guitar solo. Daniel’s vocal delivery peaks on this song. As the tune progresses and evolves,growing quicker in pace, his vocals grow more intense, mirroring the musical build with their own growl.
The only faux-complaint I have at the end of Hot Thoughts is that the album seems short. This is purely selfish and not a real complaint– the album is actually a little over forty minutes, but these minutes fly by with this band at the helm and before you know it, you’re starting over, the familiar, quick lipped Daniel to guide you along. Spoon have done the impossible, somehow managing to please fans old and new, while remaining relevant and sharp, which is a feat you can only say about a few modern rock bands. Well done and press on, Spoon.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin is a long ways a way from Austin, but not too far away in terms of mindset: here, we call our city the Live Music Capital of the world, and in the Eau Claire is the Music Capital of the North. Nestled in the Chippewa Valley and overlooking the the river, we were treated to three days in the woods with 22,000 of our newly formed friends celebrating music, arts, and the spirit of the river valley. At the center of it all was the man who dreamed up such a festival: Justin Vernon, who, alongside Aaron Dessner, brought all of us together in essentially his backyard to experience something greater.
Read on for our recap of the inaugural Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival and see some pictures from the fest.
**Feature Photo Courtesy of Graham Tolbert
Sometimes the ATH crew ventures beyond the Live Music Capital and gets to experience rad festivals. Last summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to Barcelona for Primavera Sound, and while Spain may not be on the horizon for me this summer, Wisconsin is. In a few short weeks, we’ll be hitting the grounds of the first ever Eaux Claires festival, the love child project of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver/Volcano Choir) and Aaron Dessner (The National). While we’ll give you updates live from the festival so you can live vicariously through us and figure out which acts you need to see when they make their way through our neck of the woods, you can read on for the top five things we’re looking forward to about the inaugural festival.
If you’ve been following the Austin scene over the last year, you’ve probably heard all the assholes blogging about how we expected Sweet Spirit to be the next band to break out in a big way. It doesn’t hurt that the band has Spoon and their frontman Britt Daniel backing them up along the way, so much so that he’s even collaborated with them on a tour 7″. The A-side was released this week, and the band is finishing up their debut album, which is set to be released this summer via Nine Mile Records. Sweet Spirit will hit the road this summer, with a few shows including their friends Spoon. This is our “I told you so” moment, I reckon.
This year SXSW got the best of me, and since I’m still living with the aftermath of the fest in terms of a nasty cold I figure I’d share my own superlatives of SX. I had a very different festival than the dudes of this site, which I’m referring to as SXSWJR: hitting up the low key events and only ever standing in one line for the whole fest, which I daresay is some kind of feat. Read on for my distribution of praise and a few super special secret awards that Nathan and RayRay didn’t include.
ACL Festival is only a week away, so those browsing their schedule have probably started to realize there are some huge conundrums. Who do you go see when two great bands are going head to head? The biggest “oh my god what were they thinking” moment comes with the battle to see Spoon vs. The Replacements. Yes, Spoon is riding high after a great album this year, and they’ve got a historically strong draw in Austin. That alone warrants them a viewing. But, but, BUT!!! They’re playing on Sunday against legendary act, The Replacements. Yes, you might not get the original line-up, and you might get the rumored Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) helping out, but dammit if you don’t want to miss this set. No offense to Spoon, but they’ll be around for some time to come; I might not, however, ever get the chance to see The Replacements again…and I’ll cry if they play the tune below. So what is one to do? Current hit-makers vs. legendary band? There’s only one choice.
My winner for this battle is The Replacements. One could even propose the idea that without one, the other wouldn’t exist.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/05-Androgynous.mp3]
Download: The Replacements – Androgynous [MP3]
Over the years, these Austinites have gone from local darlings to nationally successful rock stars. They’ve given us gems of albums like Gimme Fiction, and 2007’s brilliant Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which still holds its charm seven years later. Though when frontman Britt Daniel appeared in a new form with his side project, Divine Fits, I thought perhaps Spoon was done for, or at least on the backburner. They Want My Soul proves this theory to be utterly incorrect, and has this band back and at the top of their game.
Though on Transference we heard Spoon step away from the openly bombastic pop rock that they had previously ruled, here we get a return to this style, but with a new twist of sleek and extra-cool, and the singles that the band has already promoted with music videos are only the tip of the iceberg. “Do You,” has the obvious chorus repetition but is complimented by all the subtleties and nuances to offset this—like the fast word slinging, the little “do”s, and synth presence to end it gracefully. “Inside Out,” which Daniel calls “the most beautiful thing [they’ve] done,” is dominated by electronic elements; synth riffs and patterns that scatter and explode in different directions while the vocals are soft and half-falsetto for a large portion of the song. It’s a simple yet elegant number that feels mature and streamlined.
For me, while I’m digging all the songs on this record, the tracks build on each other and get more interesting as the album progresses, as a great album should. The last two songs, “Let Me Be Mine” and “New York Kiss,” give the album an ending sleek and smooth ending and makes you want to instantly start again from the beginning. “Let Me Be Mine” has Daniel giving you some advice about love, some acoustic guitar, handclap-esque rhythm and campy piano from the start, before it jumps into its full scale with electric guitar. It has this driving rhythm that propels the whole tune, but the guitars all scream the blues, as Daniel’s raspy drawl screams along too. Frankly, it’s an addicting tune and when I first heard it, I immediately had to listen several times before moving on to the next.
The album comes to a close with “New York Kiss,” ending on a nostalgic yet fast pace, which is the general emotion that worms its way in and out of the whole record via several elements and layers. Each song fits into the next, and on the whole complimenting each other. They Want My Soul feels like a natural and right step for this band, one that I’ve had a blast listening to. They combine the outright gritty alternative rock and roll of their past with a newfound texture of polish and gloss. Have a listen—these old dogs aren’t done learning new tricks.
I’ve had a few days to recuperate from the fest that doesn’t sleep and have gathered my thoughts on the sets from Friday and Saturday of Primavera. Read on for highlights and some comments about Parc Del Forúm and the festival itself in case you’re thinking Barcelona is on your music festival horizon.
We have a little guest photo action for you today. Friend of the program, David Hall, was on the list for the random Spoon show at Hotel Vegas the other night. Just so happens, he needed an assist due to scheduling issues, so my camera was able to attend as his +1.
Allegedly, it was an hour of the hits and no new stuff. Sounds like a good way to knock the rust off the band. Comedians get to work over new material in clubs, so should bands. Head past the break to see a few sweet photos by D. Hall.