This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for Britt Daniel’s birthday today (April 14th, 2022).
The first thing any Spoon fan recognizes about the band is its remarkable and almost polite sense of consistency. The Austin, Texas band might just be the closest thing indie rock has to a sure thing.
That’s also what made it so hard to whittle down the group’s back catalog to 10 essential tracks. Trust us: We spent plenty of time bickering over where we got it right and wrong. The result is a list that saw some personal favorites fall away and some other songs climb aboard.
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This is a band that knows how to write a sharply crafted pop song. This list is the proof. Rock on, and scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.
— Zach Schonfeld
10. “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”
Hot Thoughts (2017)
The third single from Hot Thoughts, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” brings toe-tapping harmonic progressions and a bassline that just won’t quit. Lead singer Britt Daniel’s lyrics are daring and cut to the chase: “Do I have to talk you into it?/ Do we have to make sense of it?/ When I’ve known you such a long time/ And we’ve never had to act polite.” — Rachael Crouch
09. “Written in Reverse”
Britt Daniel has this tendency to treat words the same way kids treat stones. He kicks ’em, he throws ’em, and he often skips ’em. “Written in Reverse” is a brilliant example of this, a four-minute exercise in deconstructed pop that finds the Austin rockers proving that a pile of scrap metal can warrant a shiny sports car. In this case, said scrap metal is a discombobulated rhythm section that sounds like it belongs somewhere in the background of a Sanford and Son episode — all jangly, chaotic, and wired.
For over four minutes, Daniel spits out every word as if he’s stumbling out of a saloon with a gallon of moonshine swishing around in his head. None of it sounds like it should work together, but it does, because the band, even at their most anarchic, can’t shake off the fact that they’re a bona fide hook factory. That’s one light bulb that never goes out. — Michael Roffman
08. “Anything You Want”
Girls Can Tell (2001)
There would be plenty of times to complicate things later. But in 2001, on their first great album, Britt Daniel and his band were almost satisfied in crafting just a couple minutes of pop perfection. “Anything You Want” is still classic Spoon in that you can hear where everything is coming from. Daniel’s simple guitar riff rises and falls with ease. The keyboard line drives the song with steady forward locomotion. And the vocals, sung by Daniel with calm clarity and purpose, are as focused as anything in Spoon’s oeuvre.
That is, until the song unravels in its final moments, going from, in the words of Daniel, “big picture” to “a very specific moment.” The way Daniel shoves too many words in the closing bit puts a strange emphasis on the moment, as if the detail about the song’s subject, Eleanor Friedberger, was too important to be compromised. It’s beautiful in how it’s allowed to sound flawed, betraying what would become a Spoon trademark, choosing honest-sounding moments in favor of radio-ready polish. — Philip Cosores