After spending the 2000s churning out consistently good albums, Spoon were due for a break. 2010's Transference reflected their weariness in its beautifully frayed collage of demo and studio recordings, so the four-year gap that followed wasn't surprising. During that time, Jim Eno produced albums by !!! and the Heartless Bastards; Eric Harvey released the solo album Lake Disappointment, and Britt Daniel formed Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner. That project couldn't help but rub off on Spoon's next album, especially since Daniel wrote much of They Want My Soul shortly after touring with Divine Fits and brought keyboardist Alex Fischel into the fold. Spoon's time off paid off; if they were weary before, here they're reinvigorated but self-aware. On several of these ten songs, Daniel laments that "they" want a piece of him, and the album revolves around obligations -- spiritual, romantic, financial -- that make for a witty focus for the band's first major-label album in over 15 years. On "The Rent I Pay," one of their best fusions of the Rolling Stones and Wire, Daniel pays his dues and defies them ("I ain't your dancer") while Eno's mighty snare hits signal that Spoon is back. On the album's title track, he includes Kill the Moonlight inspiration Jonathon Fisk among the laundry list of folks who want his vital force, but the irresistible harmonies and guitars give the song's paranoia an almost romantic tinge. Later, the standout "Let Me Be Mine" teeters between freedom and commitment with exuberant outbursts and chilly breakdowns reminiscent of Transference. But where that album's messy vulnerability was a big part of its appeal, They Want My Soul's sound is much tighter, thanks to two established sound-shapers: Dave Fridmann, whose intricate work embellished the music of the Shins and Sleater-Kinney, and Joe Chiccarelli, who produced the more mainstream likes of Jason Mraz and Counting Crows. However, the results are unquestionably Spoon. The hooky, strummy "Do You" is their version of a radio-friendly hit, while "Outlier" dresses its disses ("I remember when you walked out of Garden State/You had taste" takes aim at the song's subject and Zach Braff's movie) in busy percussion and swirling organs that borrow from late-'80s baggy. Songs like this, the sparkling "Rainy Taxi," and the swooning "New York Kiss" -- which could be a Divine Fits song -- showcase the depth Fischel's keyboards add to the band. A few indie quirks remain: many of They Want My Soul's most immediate tracks are at the bottom, and some of these songs take time to reveal themselves. "Knock Knock Knock"'s bristling guitars tip Daniel's hand more than his elliptical lyrics, while the raw cover of "I Just Don't Understand" feels like as much of a disguise as the more cryptic moments. Still, They Want My Soul is more of a welcome return than a comeback, and too complex to be considered back-to-basics -- especially when they reinvent the basics on each album. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Spoon's eighth album is an immediate grabber on par with the group's best work to date. It's also the first time Spoon have worked extensively with big-name producers, who've helped create a rich, luminous sound for a set of hooky songs."
Spin - "SOUL achieves the nearly impossible with Spoon's most eclectic set yet. It emphasizes this diversity by opening with a track, 'Rent I Pay,' that's so traditionally rockin' it's practically a Stones tribute..."
Magnet - "THEY WANT MY SOUL is as tight as an oil drum, its songwriting a slick compound of groove and melody..."
CMJ - "'Outlier' is an upbeat head-bobber featuring driving bass and drums and a well incorporated synth that serves a melodic function."
Paste (magazine) - "The bassline propels 'Rainy Taxi,' topped with bursts of skinned-knee guitar and an insistent electric piano part that breaks into a bar of splashy discord two-thirds of the way through before snapping back into place."
Clash (magazine) - "The band's dependable grasp of instantly joyous hooks still shows no sign of deserting them, and Britt Daniel's raspy voice continues to marshal the tight groove at their core."