Album Review: Spoon – Transference

by Kara Murphy on January 13, 2010

Amoeba Records always has been and always will be my favorite store to purchase music. Obviously, I’ve joined the legions of savvy music aficionados online and freely choose to spend an inordinate amount of time on the likes of lala.com, The Hype Machine, and Pandora…to name a few. Yet part of me still loves the feeling of vinyl (actually, who doesn’t) and, yes, the occasional CD in my hands. I have been told time and again that I am one of the few people anyone knows that still buys CDs. So what? I don’t claim to be all that cool. Therefore, when Amoeba recently announced they were having a “clearance CD blowout,” I immediately headed to the Berkeley location after work and rummaged through the thousands of marked down discs.

What did I find amongst some of my favorite rock albums I decided to revisit because, hey, at $3.99 on average per pop, why not? Helmet’s Betty for one. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot because the quality of the surface was slightly compromised. And, for the same reason, I just so happened to stumble across Spoon’s 2002 breakthrough release Kill the Moonlight. Will there ever be a track as delightfully eccentric from them as the beatboxing masterpiece “Stay Don’t Go?” I highly doubt it and, then again, I must confess in the same sentence that I surely hope they manage to pull off a comparable feat sometime in the near future.

Unlike a great deal of bands that spend most of their existence crafting that notable debut album only to fizzle out after the sophomore or, if they’re lucky, third release, Spoon have built a steady following over the course of their 10+ year career by consistently delivering solid, smart, and authentic rock n’ roll that’s enigmatic yet accessible in the same instance without sounding like a bid for mainstream success.

The very next day, the best musically-related news of 2010 thus far (I still can’t bring myself to hop on the Vampire Weekend bandwagon) cropped up in my Twitter feed courtesy of NPR: Spoon’s latest and, notably, first self-produced album, Transference, was available for streaming a full week before its official release.

As soon as the first track kicks in with the dreamy, ethereal, guitar-driven “Your Love,” you feel as though you’ve entered an intimate, welcoming, if not all-too-familiar listening party. And there’s the conundrum: while it’s wonderfully inviting and deftly encompasses everything any fan loves about Spoon, it’s not exactly charting ground-breaking territory either. To paraphrase, it doesn’t eclipse their best album to date, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

That being said, when dealing with a band of Spoon’s musical integrity and caliber, the former statement shouldn’t hold much weight or even begin to discourage anyone from listening to this gem time and over again as I have the past few days. The songs meander into unexpected tangents that reward you with every subsequent listen. The standout track, “Written in Reverse,” finds lead singer Britt Daniel at his angst-ridden best when he snarls out lyrics that are brilliantly accented by catchy, banged out piano choruses and cadenzas. “Trouble Comes Running” is a perky, pop-rock delight and “Got Nuffin’,” which has made the rounds in the blogosphere, is a welcoming peak towards the end. However, the final track, “Nobody Gets Me But You,” is the one that unexpectedly lingers with the listener due to its hazy textures and vulnerably appealing words – something Spoon has demonstrably mastered time and again in the past.

At the beginning of last year, I made a premature proclamation that Animal Collective’s breakthrough release, Merriweather Post Pavilion, was the going to be the best album of 2009. Lo and behold, many publications declared it so as well. While that most likely won’t be the case this time around, I am fairly confident that Transference will continue to resonate with bloggers, critics, and fans alike throughout the course of the year and make it on to their best-of lists in December. If you haven’t listened to the album yet, click here. You can thank me later.

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