They Want My Soul (Loma Vista Recordings)
Spoon needed a hiatus. Daunted by the unprecedented commercial success that accompanied 2007 career milestone Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the band threw longtime producer Mike McCarthy out with the bathwater for 2010's Transference, a work of subtle desperation that lacked focus and clarity. Chalk it up to time and distance, or the cathartic release afforded frontman Britt Daniel in underrated side project Divine Fits, but They Want My Soul returns Spoon to rare form. At its best, the local quintet's eighth LP pulls from every corner of its deep catalog: Opener "Rent I Pay" calls back to the scrappy charm of 2002's Kill the Moonlight; the title track could slot right into Gimme Fiction; "New York Kiss" bears the broadband appeal of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga; and "Rainy Taxi" comes off like a return trip from "The Mystery Zone," with Jim Eno holding down a treadmill beat (incline 1.5) for a masterful drama of suspended tension. Credit producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) for helping reel it all in, especially "Knock Knock Knock," which takes all of the right cues from Bowie – acoustic guitar upfront, hot-wired guitar sparks, space-oddity vocals – without overplaying its hand, and bruised Ann-Margret cover "I Just Don't Understand." One also gets the sense that Daniel's starting to let his guard down somewhat as a songwriter, and for the better. "Inside Out" is simply stunning, a dream sequence with washed-out keys and the frontman softly pleading at one point, "Break out of character for me." That's topped only by "Do You," which manages to hit every Spoon hallmark in one breakout track. Welcome back.