Posted by: Jeff | January 22, 2010

Spoon’s Transference

I picked up the new Spoon album, Transference, earlier this week and have been listening to it mostly non-stop since then.  I really like it.  I’d been anticipating this release for a few months as Spoon has gradually eked their way in as one of my favorite bands (according to my last.fm scrobbler, at least).

The album is a departure, and like all departures marks some shaky ground.  Over the past three albums, Spoon has gathered a lot of momentum as an irreverent indie band with a penchant for pop hooks and a little funk.  This album is grittier, more serious, stylistically a bit less polished.  The only track that seems radio-ready is the lead single “Written in Reverse” (hilarious bit from Conan before the live performance), and much of the rest of the album feels like the product of a jam session, in which Spoon went into the studio and hit record, leaving the final product as is without further mastering.  The result is a bit lo-fi, but makes the record one of the more emotionally vibrant of their discography.

The nearest (or at least, most recent) comparison I can think of is Death Cab for Cutie’s 2008 release Narrow Stairs.  Like Spoon, Death Cab had gone from raw indie talent to burgeoning pop-rock phenomenon in the span of a few fun and melodic albums.  And then they went back into the studio and jammed out, creating an album with a harsher rock edge and no shiny veneer.

Of Narrow Stairs, they said:

“But given the fact that because Plans sold twice as much as our previously most successful record and now eight times more than any record after that, for a lot of people, this will be the second Death Cab record that they’ve ever heard. I find myself thinking about it in that context. But I’m really at a place with the record where I could see why someone would really like it, and I could see why someone could really dislike it. And that’s really exciting about it,” [vocalist Ben Gibbard] says, sounding confident that he has made an album whose story can’t be told by simply plugging his name into an old manuscript. “That said, I’m going to take some advice that Dave Eggers gave me and not read any of the reviews.”

Transference – like Narrow Stairs – is a grower.  It isn’t what might be expected, and while the raw vulnerability of Britt Daniels is unexpected, ultimately it wins over even the most pop-minded Spoon fan.

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  1. […] down.  A propulsive rhythm section underneath Britt Daniels’ most plaintive vocals on the new album make this an intelligent […]


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