Just a few months ago, Metacritic.com, the granddaddy of all criticism sites that traffic in decimal-point rankings, compiled a list of the best artists of the decade by taking every reputable music review published during the past decade into account. It should come as no surprise to anyone that keeps even the tinniest ear-bud to the independent music scene that Austin-based four-piece Spoon came out on top.
Most bands struggle their whole career to put out a great album; in the past decade, Spoon put out four.
Their last release, 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” even toyed with radio-friendliness, featuring the band’s trademark drum grooves, singer Britt Daniel’s relateable kicked-in-the-gutter voice and the infectiously brassy bombast of singles “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “The Underdog.”
But it’s clear on “Transference,” the band’s seventh full-length and first self-produced record, that Spoon has ditched their designs on Billboard chart-approved mass appeal.
Rhythms skitter rather than groove, songs cut out without warning, and devilish-sounding, pitch-shifted voices mumble over extended guitar and piano jams. At first listen, the whole mess plays like a collection of experimental demos by a band more concerned with studio effects than actual songs. With the exception of maybe “Who Makes Your Money?” there isn’t even a real standout single on “Transference.”
For the first time in their career, Spoon has released an album that requires more than a few listens to sink in. Once it does sink in though, Transferance might be their most rewarding record to date.
From silencing Daniel’s singing mid-shout on “Is Love Forever?” to playing a piano line backwards intermittently on “Nobody Gets Me But You,” the mind-bending studio tricks on “Transference” begin to feel surprisingly cohesive and purposeful.
Similarly, Daniel’s lyrical themes downshift from the triumphant disdain of their past albums to a bitter anger that better suits the band’s raw, stripped-down riffs.
If “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” represented a band at the peak of their sound—brash, confidant indie rock with balls—than “Transference” represents the inevitably self-aware, neurotic backlash.
Regardless of their past success, Spoon is clearly aware that it’s a new decade. And if “Transference” is any indication, the band is more interested in creating new expectations rather than fulfilling old ones.