Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review: Spoon - Transference

My take on the new album Transference by Spoon from Decoy Music:

Rating: 4.0
on a scale out of 5.0

Cold War Kids
White Rabbits

Through over a decade of hard-work and exceptionally consistent songwriting, Spoon has solidified their place as one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed artists of the 2000s. However, the group has yet to gain the widespread mainstream attention which many believed would have come by now. The benefit of this is that Spoon keeps making the album that they want to make. Transference probably isn't the album that is going to blow up their career even though it has its fair share of earworms. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the band is fully aware of their place in the music world and they sound as comfortable as ever just being Spoon.

The group is one that always had great demos; you know, the demos which you keep telling your friends are better than the originals. Well, this time around they decided to circumvent the glossy production to bring you a whole album of stripped-down gems. This isn't to say that they are embracing a lo-fi sound as much as they are a minimalist one. The result is a record where the band makes sure you are hearing what they want you to exactly how they want you to. Singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno accomplished this by handling the production duties themselves and they are more than capable engineers. These songs are for people who 'get' the concept of power through simplicity in music; something that is unusual to come about through slick production.

The reason Spoon has silently become one of the most lauded bands of this generation is their ability to exude cool from every note. All this becomes evident right in the opening track “Before Destruction” when the drums drop out and you are left face-to-face with Britt Daniel as if he is there in the flesh revealing a touching moment to you. The intimacy of the opener continues throughout the record. The reserved beat established in "Who Makes Your Money" creates one of the most instantly enjoyable songs in their catalog. There are plenty of these revelatory moments scattered throughout the album which give you the sense that these guys are onto something.

"The Mystery Zone" is classic Spoon through-and-through and is certainly a candidate for the next single. The band does play it safe in that they know what has worked in the past and are not afraid to exploit those elements. There are plenty of classic Spoon jam moments where they rock out on two chords while pumping out catchy one-note basslines and thick grooves that get your blood pumping. "Written in Reverse" is one of these songs and displays the reflective nature of Daniel's lyrics on this album when he confesses "I want to show you how I love you, but there’s nothing there.” He plays with similar themes throughout, getting especially personal in the spacey "Is Love Forever?" and "Goodnight Laura", an excellent dreary ballad that is sure to warrant repeated plays for quite some time in the same way that Arctic Monkey's "Cornerstone" did last year. The irresistible garage pop of "Trouble Comes Running" sounds like it was found on a long-lost 4-track owned by The Who.

The album does falter in some areas mostly due to somewhat uneventful moments. These moments seem somewhat inevitable on an album with a nature rooted in minimalism. The band knows how to make the best of what they have and this means staying within their range and creating the tightest compositions plausible in this manner. Fans had time to speculate about this record since hearing the propulsive sound of "Got Nuffin" back in June of last year. Thankfully, the group delivered on the promise of that track and then some. Transference easily has one of the most memorable production jobs in recent memory but it is so much more than a collection of really neat sounding demos. They clearly had fun in the studio and had a lot they wanted to do and say with this one. The great thing about Spoon is that everyone has their own favorite Spoon record. It's hard to find two people with the same one and I think that speaks volumes about their consistency. With such an innocent and sincere sound which you can't help but love, the group has poised themselves for many more successes yet to come.

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