Early reviews of Rae Spoon’s Love Is a Hunter suggested that the Calgary-bred songwriter’s latest album is a radical break from his past, most notably because several tracks sound a lot more like bed-sit electronica than the spare, country-tinged songs that marked earlier efforts. For Spoon, however, the new disc marks more of an evolution than a revolution: the real break, he says, came on his previous release, 2008’s Superioryouareinferior.
“I feel like Superioryouareinferior was far more of a departure for me, because I actually made an effort to change how I was singing a bit,” Spoon explains on the line from Montreal, where he settled last November after a sojourn in Berlin. “Like, take some of the country accent off of it. On this one, there’s more electronic stuff, but that’s basically the only departure. It doesn’t feel really, really far from Superior.”
It’s easier to follow the evolutionary line, however, once you know about Worauf Wartest Du?, the 2009 release Spoon made with German musician Alexandre Decoupigny. An electronic art project that the two followed up with a series of live performances in the Berlin subway system, it’s the missing link between Superior and Spoon’s latest.
“That was kind of fun because we had about a month to write, and we wrote 10 songs or something,” Spoon relates, after crediting Decoupigny with teaching him how to use the computer as a musical instrument. “And we really experimented—there’s one song where I’m, like, yelling. We just went to the limit. There’s way more electronic stuff on there than country. It’s just kind of a weird, fun album, and it helped sharpen my skills a bit.”
That’s evident from Love Is a Hunter, which Spoon recorded in Calgary with coproducer and engineer Lorrie Matheson. Although the simple song structures reflect the transgender singer’s background as a guitar-strumming folkie, tracks like “You Can Dance” and “dangerdangerdanger” merge retro-pop melodies with floor-filling grooves. Quite rightly, they suggest that Spoon’s been spending a lot of time in clubs of late—but not always by choice.
“I’ve been touring a lot, so there’s that element of being in bars all the time,” he says. “But as far as the club scene goes, I actually don’t really go to clubs when I’m not playing, so maybe it’s more an album about being forced to be in clubs, ’cause I kind of leave as soon as possible.”
In other words, Spoon’s not vying to be the next Lady Gaga, even if the two artists (nearly) share a song title. His “Monsters”, though, is less an exploration of lust under the disco ball than a thoughtful look at the inner demons that can tear a sensitive soul apart.
“I guess I’m referencing patterns, maybe, that people have, that keep thwarting intimacy in their lives—things you go through and deal with at some point,” he explains. “Those internal limitations, often from how you were raised or where you come from, where you actually have to go back and rewrite how you’re going to behave.”
On Love Is a Hunter, the 30-year-old Spoon sounds so relaxed and confident that it’s clear he’s done that work—and his next project suggests that while growing up queer in Cowtown might have shaped his life, it hasn’t scarred him permanently.
“I’m working on a musical documentary with a filmmaker from Toronto about growing up in Alberta,” he reveals. “It’s called My Prairie Home, and it kind of goes in and out of reality and music videos—so I guess I’ve written a musical about my childhood. And there’s some country and grunge and rock. It’s really weird.”
Not so weird, though, that we’re not looking forward to it.