Get to Know: Spoon

Spoon is the brainchild of frontman/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. Hailing from Austin – the home of the University of Texas – the band’s sound feels as if it were shaped in a college town, benefiting from all the creativity and calculation in the air. With help from co-producer Mike McCarthy, Daniel pays great attention to detail and each of the band’s tracks is pleasurable to the ear in one way or another. Over the past decade, the band has released five albums, and while their early punk stuff drew comparisons to the Pixies, the band has been able to refine its sound over its last four releases, developing a kind of rock that is both melodious and thoughtful. Spoon is working on a sixth album, tentatively titled Trouble Minx, for release sometime in 2007. But for now, listen to these 11 songs, and pay special attention to what’s going on in the lower frequencies. Daniel’s ability to create interesting, repeating bass lines and piano riffs is almost unparalleled. When possible, I included links to the songs at iTunes and Amazon and also included either a proper video or live performance for each song (from YouTube). Spoon is a terrific live band, so if you get the opportunity, be sure to see them perform.
Spoon MySpace Page | Official Site
BE Reviews: Girls Can Tell | Kill The Moonlight | Gimme Fiction

“The Way We Get By”Kill the Moonlight
This is the first song I play for people when I’m trying to get them into the band. Daniel called this track “one of the most immediate” of his tunes, going on to say, “Once I sang that chorus the first time and got it on tape, I kind of knew it was going to be a good one.” It’s catchy from the start – he sings over an infectious yet delightful piano riff. It was also a breakthrough of sorts; the song ended up on the first Music from the O.C. mix. You can watch a decent live version here or watch an “O.C.” video below, which has the song as its soundtrack.
iTunes | Amazon

“I Turn My Camera On”Gimme Fiction
This track has a dance vibe that surprised even Daniel, who said, “Jim [Eno] – the drummer – was the guy that sent it into sort of this dance feel. I didn’t really have that idea for it. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but he really sent it off into that direction.” Daniel’s Jagger-like falsetto completes the track. The band got more love from another TV show – the song ended up on the “Veronica Mars” soundtrack and Daniel even appeared in an episode, singing a karaoke version of Elvis Costello’s “Veronica.”
iTunes | Amazon

“They Never Got You”Gimme Fiction
Daniel described this track as one that “was more of a personal tune to me, about what it felt like to me growing up.” The message is clear: it’s OK if you don’t fit in. Notice the gorgeous bass line. If this track were required listening for every teenager, high school would be a lot easier.
iTunes | Amazon

“Everything Hits at Once”Girls Can Tell
This is the most accessible track from 2001’s Girls Can Tell. You can hear the band’s sound developing in the subtle keys and the interesting guitar in the bridge leading up to the catchy chorus. Daniel describes the song’s genesis: “I remember thinking that once I had it, that I was really excited about the melody…[we] went through four or five different choruses trying to come up with one that really stood out and made it a great song.” The band put together an animated video for the song, which you can watch below.
iTunes | Amazon

“My Mathematical Mind”Gimme Fiction
The piano riff that drives this track is so simple, yet so emotive. This song was written when Daniel left Austin for Galveston for a while to focus on his songwriting. He describes the process: “‘My Mathematical Mind’ was one that just came up there and it was like – ‘Let’s just throw this down. I know I’m not going to be able to use it, but let’s just throw this down and put it on tape.’ And those are sometimes the best songs, those that you just think like, ‘Ah, let’s just throw down this stupid idea.’” The guitar gets a little rough at the end, mirroring the frustration he felt about his songwriting.
iTunes | Amazon

“I Summon You”Gimme Fiction
This melancholy track seems to be about the pain associated with a long-distance relationship. Some of the lyrics – “The law enforcement’s impressed you’ve survived to this age/ Strapped-up soldiers / They’ll lock you in a cage without goodbye / For a nickel bribe” – could be describing someone who’s in jail, or maybe they’re just emotionally incarcerated.
iTunes | Amazon

“Small Stakes”Kill the Moonlight
This track starts with a quickly repeating guitar riff and never lets up. Daniel uses an echo on his vocal, which is rare for him. The ascension in the verse is especially dramatic. The track seems to be about the contrast between those that chase their dreams and those that don’t.
iTunes | Amazon

“The Beast and Dragon, Adored”Gimme Fiction
This is my favorite Spoon song, but I must warn you, it takes a little while to sink in. The title of the song comes from the name of a French tapestry in one of Daniel’s grandmother’s art books from the ‘50s. He describes its inspiration: “…that was when the Iraq war was starting and I was watching way too much (CNN) Headline News. It was basically on all the time in my shitty little apartment and the world was feeling a little bit apocalyptic.” It’s appropriately dramatic, and the random guitar screeches portray a feeling of anger. After about five listens, you’ll either think this song is insanely good or you’ll never want to hear it again.
iTunes | Amazon

“Utilitarian”A Series of Sneaks
Spoon’s second full-length effort, A Series of Sneaks, was a transition of sorts for the band, as it moved from punk to a cleaner rock sound. This track features a strong opening guitar riff that is the backbone of the song. It’s a fairly simple track, but still effective.
iTunes | Amazon

“Sister Jack”Gimme Fiction
This track has a good beat and an infectious chorus. It’s the band’s fifth most downloaded song at iTunes and is more immediate than most of the band’s work.
Video at YouTube | iTunes | Amazon

“Vittorio E.”Kill the Moonlight
This stark song joined “The Way We Get By” and “My Mathematical Mind” on the soundtrack to Will Ferrell’s movie, “Stranger than Fiction.” The lone guitar conjures up feelings of isolation and introspection. The song’s title comes from a subway stop in Rome; Vittorio Emanuel was the first king of a united Italy in the late 1800s. See, you learn stuff when you listen to Spoon.
iTunes | Amazon

Spoon fans – what are your favorites?


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