THEY WANT MY SOUL
Spoon (Loma Vista/Republic)
The Austin-born band Spoon is out with its eighth album, They Want My Soul. It's a lush jangle of guitars, smart lyrics, and catchy refrains that continues to set the band apart from, well, other bands you're not quite sure you've heard of.
Therein lives the mystery of Spoon. They're just good enough to make a 20-year career out of music while producing albums and songs you've probably overlooked.
That may not last much longer thanks to a couple of standout tracks that are certain to be late-summer earworms once They Want My Soul migrates into frequent rotation.
“Do You” is the one song you must know about. It asks of the listener ""Do you want to get understood?/Do you want one thing or are you looking for sainthood?" It has a great pace and is delivered with matching emotion by the band's electrifying lead singer Britt Daniel.
While “Do You” offers straight-ahead rock, "Outlier" has a more modern feel with its danceable backbeat and ghostly keyboard echoes.
Spoon can do a little bit of everything, and does so on They Want My Soul. To sound this fresh after two decades of work speaks to the band's smartness and savvy. They were one of the crowd favorites during their set at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta this year with an energetic stage presence.
Spoon is wearing its experience well these days.
— RON HARRIS,
Weird Al Yankovic (RCA)
An accordion-playing song parodist? Not a formula for career longevity. But here’s “Weird Al” Yankovic, 35 years after his recording debut, bigger and brassier than ever.
Weird Al hasn’t changed his approach one bit with the chart-topping Mandatory Fun. He goes after pop’s big fish (in this case, Lorde, Pharrell, Iggy Azalea). The backing tracks are cheesy but instantly recognizable, and the mock lyrics are clever and cohesive. The best parody here: “Word Crimes,” a warped copy of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” but heavy on the grammar. The worst: “Inactive,” which sounds more like Linkin Park than it does its intended target — Imagine Dragons (“Radioactive”).
There are also a number of unremarkable originals on the album, a labored takeoff of Crosby Stills & Nash’s “Carry On,” and an accordion medley that covers everyone from Carly Rae to Pitbull. They’re all fair game for Weird Al.
— DAVID HILTBRAND,
THE BREEZE: AN APPRECIATION OF JJ CALE
Eric Clapton & Friends (Surfdog)
Eric Clapton calls his new album of J.J. Cale songs an appreciation rather than a tribute, and that word choice gets at the appealingly modest vibe of this record.
In spite of cameos by heavy-hitting guitar guys such as Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, and John Mayer, The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale — which honors the roots-music cult hero who died a year ago — dispenses with the grandstanding that bogs down most tribute albums; it sounds more like the product of an impromptu jam session.
Clapton opens this disc with “Call Me the Breeze,” which Lynyrd Skynyrd turned into a hit. But he otherwise sidesteps Cale’s best-known songs, focusing instead on gems such as the taut, funky “Rock and Roll Records” and the delicate “Magnolia,” with a beautifully understated vocal by Mayer.
Willie Nelson turns up for a pair of acoustic country tunes, “Songbird” and “Starbound,” while Knopfler’s singing in “Someday” demonstrates how much he was pulling from Cale in Dire Straits. And Clapton and Mayer keep their soloing to a tasteful minimum in “Don’t Wait,” which fades out after a quick 2½ minutes.
Does it sound like I’m congratulating a bunch of rock stars simply for restraining themselves? I suppose I am. But like Cale’s unique charm, that’s a rare occurrence worth celebrating.
— Mikael Wood,
Los Angeles Times