Friday, January 29, 2010

Spoon "Transference"

I usually don't like to give my take on an album until I've listened to it a few times. With Transference, it's a necessity.

In case it isn't already apparent, I'm a huge Spoon fan. Like many others, I first got hooked via their acoustic piano hit "The Way We Get By," and never looked back. I've devoured their entire catalog, even their earlier, more punky tracks. I guess I'm a sucker for the stripped-down aesthetic, and I'll be down with mostly anything that contains heavy drums and ragged vocals.

Their previous album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (yeah, five of 'em!), was all smooth sailing: accessible and catchy songs, save for "The Ghost of You Lingers," the clearest indulgence of their experimental longings. On Transference, the experimentation isn't confined to one track: it's sprayed throughout... like a fine mist, y'might say. And to some (if you'll bear the simile a little longer), that mist might make too much of a haze to be enjoyed. Songs seem to end mid-lyric, or contain no bridge, or sound like they're on cheap speakers that suddenly explode to richer volumes. Even the ultra-cool opening song we've come to expect is missing, and the more "radio-friendly" tracks are shoved toward the end.

I've heard Brit Daniels talk about wanting to capture a live feel on Ga, letting studio fumblings and between-take chatter make their way onto the album. He continues his quest for spontaneity on Transference, and even decided that the demo version of "Goodnight Laura" was as polished as it needed to be (he was right, it's certainly a highlight of the album).

All this experimentation (or "playfulness," as Spoon would rather call it) could make for an awkward listening experience, but I never really mind. Instead, upon re-listen I've come to see these bumps as intrinsic parts of the album and its themes. We hear about an imaginary relationship in "The Mystery Zone," and songs like "Is Love Forever" make Daniel's preoccupations plain. Love is confounding, the truth is sought out and cut short, all while Spoon searches for "a way to convey."

Perhaps Spoon's biggest strength lies in their consistency, or how they can still deliver a solid album even when they're messing around more overtly. I can't get "Who Makes Your Money" out of my head, "Trouble Comes Running" rollicks along, and "Got Nuffin" serves as a kick-ass anthem, reminiscent of the brightness found on Ga. Yes, Transference might be murker than Spoon's last venture, but it might also be more rewarding.

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