Could the indie art-rock gods known as Spoon have come up with a better name for their electrifyingly great new album than Hot Thoughts? Not bloody likely.
On their first studio effort in 3 years, the Austin, Texas-based collective is firing on all cylinders. From the echo-driven joy of the title track to the percussive explosiveness of “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” to the funky kicks going down in “Can I Sit Next to You,” Spoon have figured out how to draw a literal map to the expressway inside your skull.
I recently interviewed Spoon drummer Jim Eno for my weekly Audiophile column over on our partner site, Digital Trends, in which we discussed the cool new Aura Reader app that enables you to create your own customized skull cover art for Hot Thoughts based on your personal playlist, as well as Eno’s other role as a curator of live local sessions for Spotify and the ongoing importance of album sequencing in the streaming era. Here, we focus on some hi-res talk and additional exclusive-to-HRAC chatter about how the band plans to perform the new album onstage.
Jim Eno: Yeah, I think so. We listen to hi-res all the time too, though I probably prefer vinyl. That’s what we normally listen to at home. We also travel a lot, so we listen to music on our phones, on the plane, and in the bus. I do listen to MP3s on my phone most of the time because of all of the storage limitations.
Sometimes, I tend to separate sonics from songs. But when you’re home and you’re just chilling, you want to have a relaxing time — so you throw on some vinyl.
Mettler: That’s what I call appointment listening, where the album becomes your whole focus. Do you have any favorite albums you do that with?
Eno: Let’s see. I’m a big fan of [2007’s] In Rainbows, by Radiohead. That record sounds amazing. I just love all the songs. I also like a lot of jazz records, like [Miles Davis’] Kind of Blue (1959).
Mettler: Kind of Blue is such a benchmark album, regardless of genre. I had to get the big 50th anniversary box set edition when it came out a few years ago. There’s also super hi-res versions in both mono and stereo, and one that’s in surround sound on SACD and DualDisc too.
Eno: Oh wow! You have all that? I haven’t gotten my hands on any of those.
Mettler: You should seek them out; they’re totally worth the listening time. So how are you going to do this album live? How many songs from Hot Thoughts will get into the live set?
Eno: We’ve been working up the new songs, and can probably do eight of them live right now. A lot of it comes down to choices. You focus on the specific instruments, and you try to play as much of it as you can. But sometimes you find, “OK, this instrument isn’t going to get played.”
So it takes us a bit of work, but usually we can present the songs well live. We don’t pump in the loops; we don’t do any of that stuff like a lot of bands are doing now. Everything we do is played. I do have a drum pad and the sounds will be there, but I’ll be the one playing that stuff.
When it comes to keyboards and sampled sounds, sometimes our front-of-house guy will generate those, and other times, Alex [Fischel, keyboards] or Gerardo [Larios, touring guitarist] will be doing that. It won’t be a backing track. We’re still playing as a band. We’re not going to hit a key to trigger those parts — we’re going to play them. Little things may get triggered here and there, but most of the time, it’s us playing them.
Mettler: I hope that “Pink Up” makes it into the set, because I want to hear that percussive break you do in the back half of it. You kinda go nuts there.
Eno: Well, that’s a good question — we don’t yet know how we’re going to do that whole song live! (chuckles)