Spoon: Transference (Merge) 

Spoon's latest is a "mood album." What I mean is, its cumulative effect has power and beauty, but on a song-by-song basis, it's not nearly as accessible as 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Instead, Transference is full of post-punk swagger and deconstructed disco beats that, listened to as a whole experience, is beguiling.

From the reverb-heavy "Is Love Forever?" to "Who Makes Your Money," which teems with background blips and twitters, Spoon's mood here is spectral and uncertain. "I got taken away by heavenly hopes," Britt Daniel sings on "Trouble Comes Running," a kind of cautionary tale in which the speaker's intentions don't quite square with the results of his actions.

I particularly love the New Wave anti-dance track "Nobody Gets Me But You," where Spoon prunes everything down to the barest essentials—throaty bass groove; tinny, skeletal guitars; and detached, vaguely nihilist vocals.

This minimalism feels like a nice way to usher in the next decade in Spoon's career. It's not a commercial album, which one might anticipate after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga's breakout success. But it still feels like a crowd-pleaser, perhaps because it's not pandering.

If there's a weak link in the album's aesthetic principle, for me it's when Daniel's croonier side takes over, like on the piano-stomping "Written in Reverse." Granted, Daniel's croon is more a smoker's croak, less dulcet than damaged. But this is a band I like more when it's strutting, not wooing. Transference has plenty of strut.

More by Sean Bottai


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