Label: Merge Records)
Release Date: Tuesday, January 19
By Paige Richmond in CD review
There’s a reason why “Written in Reverse” is being pushed as the single off Spoon’s seventh full-length. The track is catchy but artful, dirty but not messy–it’s just what you’d expect from Spoon. But “Written in Reverse” is also one of the only songs on Transference that actually contains a pop hook or concerns itself with a verse-chorus-verse structure.
For casual fans of Girls Can Tell–the mellow but electric pop that started Spoon on its steady rise to commercial and critical darling–there’s little on this album that will satisfy, aside from the single and “Trouble Comes Running.” There are no hugely produced, hand-clapping numbers, like “The Underdog” on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, either.
But Transference also proves that Spoon doesn’t need catchy lyrics and bouncy guitars to write pop songs. The album lives up to its name: taken on the whole, Transference sounds like Britt Daniel and company took the best parts of the instrumentation from six previous albums–pounding pianos, circular guitars, and steady but sparse percussion–and recombined them. The result is deceptively simple, like shuffling a deck of cards. The songs are turned down and sedated; they echo “Don’t Make Me a Target” from Ga or even “This Book is A Movie” from Girls Can Tell. Diehard Spoonheads may even see similarities between Transference and Kill the Moonlight, another record where the band used silence to its advantage.
The album is a lesson in deconstruction, and no song captures this better than “I Saw the Light.” Halfway through its five minute duration, the song shifts from a slow-burning, rhythmic beat–all jangly drums, reverb-heavy guitars, and Britt Daniel’s sultry vocals–to a faster, piano-driven instrumental track. In some ways, it’s a totally unexpected move, like a car slamming on it brakes. The same feeling is present in the opening track, “Before Destruction,” moving from layered vocals and synthesizers to what sounds like Daniel singing in an echoing basement over fuzzed-out guitars.
Self-produced, Transference seems like a collection of songs written on a whim, as if they’re the seeds of an idea that could someday come to fruition. (Daniel has stated that most of the tracks are, in fact, demos). They can feel unstructured and listless on first listen, but there’s also a sense that Spoon doesn’t care what you think. This band has a point to make: they’re reinventing indie rock and pop, slowly but steadily.