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Album review: Spoon’s ‘Hot Thoughts’ experiments with electronics

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The group is still best when playing taut rock ‘n’ roll.
Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Spoon Hot Thoughts

To release ninth studio album Hot Thoughts, indie-rock shape-shifters Spoon returned to Matador Records, the label that released the band’s very first LP, 1996’s Telephono. Things are quite different for the Austin group these days: Frontman Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno are the only lineup holdovers from two decades ago, and Hot Thoughts bears little resemblance not just to Spoon’s previous album, 2014’s They Want My Soul, but to the rest of its catalog.

Electronic elements are more prominent than ever, from the throbbing rhythmic loops of “First Caress” to the title track, a piece of sizzling, clipped synth-pop. The record-closing “Us” is even more radical: A lonely, wailing saxophone anchors an abstract instrumental with Brian Eno-like percussion chimes and ambient textures. While “Us” is intriguing, those sorts of amorphous electronic arrangements sink other parts of Hot Thoughts, with songs feeling unfocused as a result. The record sounds far better when Spoon grounds its experiments and plays structured, taut rock ’n’ roll. The anxious, ’90s-inspired electronica of “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” gives way to jagged electric guitars, and “Shotgun” is an atmospheric, disco-punk standout.

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