In the pirate blogosphere culture of our recently ushered in decade, it can be hard to keep an album under wraps. Just ask Spoon. With whispers of leaks plaguing the unveiling of Transference, they moved up the North American release date of their seventh album to January 19, seven days ahead of schedule, even featuring a stream on NPR’s First Listen to satiate the clamouring internet crowds. The hype is not surprising, given the wait between their latest LP and 2007’s critically acclaimed Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Frontman Britt Daniels has a history of pushing the average pop/rock listener slightly out of their comfort zone through Spoon’s edgy vibes. Transference pushes the boundaries in a different way than expected: not an in your face return album, but with Spoon’s flair for paring the music down.
The album starts off with eerie organs, gradually joined by a variable fidelity track of Daniels’ unique yelped singing and sparsely strummed guitar. When the vocal layering comes in mid-track, I wonder if the album would have been more appropriately titled Transcendence. Shiver inducing. Most of the remaining tracks bounce with uncomplicated but well-executed structures (‘Is Love Forever?’, ‘Mystery Zone’), in Spoon’s classic style. To me, the anthemic ‘Got Nuffin’ (previously released as an EP in June 2009) feels the most like a big ticket production number; this album’s answer to ‘The Underdog’. Then comes ‘Who Makes Your Money’, its stripped-down synth and digitized vocals reminiscent of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s ‘The Ghost of You Lingers’.
A significant detractor is the comparative scarcity of Spoon’s standard quirky lyrical play. Daniels’ normally quick-witted one man banter is seemingly replaced with blatant proclamations and undecorated honesty. Take the aptly titled ‘Nobody Gets Me Like You’ for example: “No one gets what I’m doing/Everyone else seems to look through it/Oh, but maybe I never wanted them to/Couldn’t count on it anyway/Nobody gets me/Nobody cuts me like you.” There’s still something ensnaring about Britt’s boldfaced approach, as if he gets to the point of the songs without clouding them with words.
All in all, it sounds like a Spoon album. It stares you directly in the face with blunt lyrics and simple melodies. The songs are tight and the minimalist approach bares this sophisticated take on indie pop. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if many listeners lose interest as instruments drift out to a raw rock denominator, instead of reveling in the clever arrangements. Personally, I’ll still be picking up the vinyl when it hits shelves today.
For those in Toronto, check them out at Sound Academy with Deerhunter and The Strange Boys on March 29.