- Spoon performs at the Chance in Poughkeepsie on December 1.
It would seem that after topping the indie charts and placing multiple albums in the Billboard 200, a band can take one of two artistic directions as they move forward: stick with the tried-and-true or try something a little different. But for Hot Thoughts, the ninth album by Spoon, the Texas alt-pop hitmakers took a third path, a middle one that retains the quartet's familiar approach while adding whole new layers of sonic exploration. On December 1, the group will unfurl those layers live when they make a rare small-venue Hudson Valley appearance at the Chance.
"It's a pretty keyboard-heavy record—rock 'n' roll but without guitars," says frontman Britt Daniel, who traditionally plays the latter instrument in Spoon, via phone from Spain, where the group played a pair of shows last month. "It's very textured and soundscape-y. But it evolved organically; we didn't go into the studio planning to make an album that sounds the way this one does. I guess it started when we were working on an acoustic ballad and it was feeling like we just couldn't get it out of that 'acoustic' world. It needed something different."
Something different was no doubt what Spoon had in mind when they enlisted producer Dave Fridmann for their last album, 2014's They Want My Soul, for which he recorded half the tracks and mixed in full. Dubbed "the Phil Spector of the Alt-Rock Era" by MOJO magazine, the Buffalo native is famed for his expansive, experimental work with the Flaming Lips, MGMT, Mercury Rev, and others. Pleased with the producer's panoramic palette, Daniel and his bandmates decided to retain his services for the making of Hot Thoughts, which pulses and percolates with atmospheric touches on standouts like "WhisperI'lllistentohearit" and the title tune. Nevertheless, smatterings from the Spoon of yore flavor the disc as well: The funky "Do I Have to Talk You into It" recalls their ubiquitous signature 2005 smash "I Turn My Camera On." "Dave's a brilliant producer, and it was great to have him even more involved with this record than he was with the last one," raves Daniel. "When you're a band in the studio, he's a good dad to have."
Spoon was forged in the music hub of Austin by Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1994, debuting with a locally released EP that year before signing to indie dynamo Matador Records for 1996's Telephono. The band's brand of choppy, Pixies-stick postpunk won them adoring accolades in the music press and fervent fans in the rock underground. After another EP, 1997's Soft Effects, the group had a fleeting fling with majorlabeldom with 1998's Series of Sneaks. Freed from Warner Bros./Elektra, they landed on Merge Records, where they found their feet for a five-album run that featured Girls Can Tell (2001), regarded by many as the band's pinnacle, and the breakthroughs Gimme Fiction (2005) and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007). Hot Thoughts has Spoon heading full circle back to Matador, which released the album last March.
"It was definitely a trip, to be sitting down again to work out a deal with the same people we signed with almost 20 years ago," muses Daniel. "But when we left Matador it was on good terms, and we've always stayed friends with the people there. And before we even talked to them, we did the same thing we always have: Make the record we like on our own first and just see what happens from there."
Spoon will perform at the Chance in Poughkeepsie on December 1 at 7pm. White Reaper will open. Tickets are $30. (845) 471-1966.