Last Friday, Spoon released Everything Hits At Once: The Best of Spoon, a greatest hits album by a band without a single Billboard 200 song to their name. It’s nearly impossible to argue with any song on the tracklist, one that weaves in and out of every era of the band, beginning with 2000’s Girls Can Tell all the way up to a new song released along with the compilation, “No Bullets Spent.” But they mostly opted for singles, so it’s also tough to see them leave off certain songs.
Spoon, as one of the most consistently great American rock bands of the 21st century—maybe even the best—has endless amounts of “fan favorites,” loads of which didn’t make the greatest hits record. Of the 10 songs we included on our list of favorites, only three made the cut for Everything Hits At Once, showing the depth of the perpetually cool Austin band’s back catalogue. Though it was hard work for us to narrow down an initial list of 30 songs to 10, you can only imagine how much more agonizing the process was for frontman Britt Daniel, who had to find it within him to shut out standouts like “Stay Don’t Go” and “Jonathan Fisk.”
Here, we attempt that same Herculean task, creating our own list of Spoon’s greatest hits, deep cuts, and fan favorites.
On Gimme Fiction, Spoon try a lot of new sounds: “I Turn My Camera On” is a throwback funk song while “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and “My Mathematical Mind” attempt piano rock without much of a reference point. But Spoon are at their best when they strip everything away and make anthemic, no-frills rock ‘n’ roll, perhaps best exemplified by “Sister Jack,” a song that largely maintains the same melody throughout. Complete with a bizarre guitar “solo,” the song chugs along, begging the listener to roll down the car windows and just blast it until the speakers give out.
When announcing They Want My Soul on Facebook, Spoon wrote, “We’re pretty sure that the levels indicate this to be our loudest record… Side One begins with the gnarliest Jim Eno drum sound ever recorded and Side Two ends with Rob Pope’s bass amp completely breaking down to fuzz + hiss at the end of a take.” They hold up that promise on album closer “New York Kiss,” the sound of a band playing their instruments so hard they broke down at the end of the record. Built around an earworm-y synthline, “New York Kiss” is maybe the poppiest thing Spoon have ever released, a call-to-arms depicting love in an apocalyptic Manhattan. Plus, Daniel screaming, “I say goodnight,” is an all-time great album-ending lyric.
“Mmm, ahh, mmm, mmm, ahh.” Framed by an instantly recognizable pseudo-beat box, “Stay Don’t Go” combines a simple guitar line and Daniel’s breathiest vocals outside of “I Turn My Camera On” to create one of Spoon’s catchiest songs. They rarely allow themselves to be this simple and strip almost everything away in such a wild fashion. It shouldn’t work this well, but if anyone could pull it off, it’s Spoon.
While Spoon excel at weirdness—bizarre piano chords here, guitar freakouts there—they’re also pros at just rocking out. “Jonathan Fisk,” one of the most straightforward songs in their arsenal, just kicks ass, to put it bluntly. The Kill the Moonlight cut about a schoolyard bully chugs along before exploding in the final chorus. It’s no wonder this is a live fan favorite.
As the story goes, Spoon didn’t want to include “The Underdog” on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Three months after the album’s release, the band played it on their Saturday Night Live debut, en route to becoming their most ubiquitous track which has since been featured in scores of movies. It’s Spoon’s catchiest song, a feel-good singalong with handclaps, a horn section and an acoustic riff that’s recognizable within seconds. There’s a reason why this is probably Spoon’s best-known song—it’s Britt Daniel & co. at their most playful and fun.
When teasing They Want My Soul’s release, Spoon uploaded a 26-second video to YouTube simply titled, “Hi.” That clip, consisting only of the guitar freakout section from “Knock Knock Knock,” was all it took to drum up all kinds of hype. The full song, showcasing some of the craziest and most alien-like sounds they’ve ever written, is even better and sees Spoon at their most ambitious and experimental. It features that chaotic guitar, distant whistling, ominous strings and some of Daniel’s best vocals, culminating in a fever pitch as he yelps out that final, “Every time I hear a knock knock knock / I know that it’s you.”
Spoon know how to start an album better than almost anyone. They tend to open with some of their most thrilling tracks (“Hot Thoughts,” “Rent I Pay,” “Don’t Make Me a Target,” “Everything Hits at Once”—all songs that were considered for this list). But none quite live up to “Small Stakes,” a massive song that somehow doesn’t feature drums until there’s about 30 seconds left and relies completely on a simple fuzzed-out keyboard riff and a tambourine. By the time Daniel starts pleading, “Ah, c’mon,” we’re willing to follow him virtually anywhere.
There’s a reason why “I Summon You” was the only non-single included on Spoon’s greatest hits tracklist: Not only is it a fan favorite, but it’s also one of their most succinct and saccharine acoustic tracks. While most Spoon songs lend themselves to a more rock ‘n’ roll sound and attitude, “I Summon You” is a sweet love song amid a sea of rockers. Britt Daniel recently told Billboard, “It’s a special one to me. I think it’s one of our best-written songs.” It’s hard not to agree.
With the possible exception of Transference’s “Goodnight Laura; “Inside Out” is Spoon’s prettiest song, full stop. Its woozy and warm synth tones are like nothing else, and without Daniel’s raspy vocals, you might think it’s a different band entirely. Complete with a hip-hop beat and harp flourishes, “Inside Out” fully represents Spoon—a band who, despite occasionally throwing listeners for a loop, are remarkably consistent throughout their nine studio albums—actually trying to experiment and succeeding on a massive scale. While it doesn’t sound anything like them, no one else could have written a song quite like this.
Who knew a song about going to a shoe repair shop could be this sweet? “Black Like Me,” a stunning acoustic album closer, wraps up Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in the most epic way possible, begging for someone to “take care of me tonight.” Directed towards “all the weird kids up front,” Spoon keep things calm until blowing everything up with a piano riff about halfway through, even launching into double time before a call-and-response finish backed by a string section brings what’s maybe their best album to a close. “Black Like Me” features everything we love about Spoon—Daniel’s raspy scream, rocking pianos, an unexpected tempo shift, a stomp-along acoustic guitar riff and contagious lyrics—all wrapped up in one compact, perfect song.
Check out Spoon’s Daytrotter session from 2008.