It doesn't take long for lead singer and songwriter Britt Daniel and the rest of this Austin-based outfit to establish on Transference that they're more than capable of picking up where they left off with the outstanding 2007 effort Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. But it's where the band goes from there that really makes Transference shine, not just apart from the rest of the band's catalog, but apart from most of the other indie pop style offerings out there.
Spoon's brand of minimalist rock/pop has always been hard to categorize and Daniels oblique lyrics and punchy, angular guitar chops don't resonate with everyone. But there's a bravado underlying everything that Spoon does that's pure rock and roll soul. Transference is Spoon's seventh studio album and in some ways its best, combining all the other carefully crafted elements of the band's formula with some ideas that take the band into uncharted waters.
The first foray comes relatively early with "The Mystery Zone" a hypnotic piece of pulsating pop that borders on psychedelia, albeit filtered through Daniels art pop sensibilities. Daniels tantalizes listeners by creating sparse soundscapes and then quietly filling the spaces with piano and guitar riffs. At one point Daniels actually howls into the microphone and you can almost glimpse the moonlight shining on this rock and roll werewolf.
The mood continues on the ultra laid-back groove of "Who Makes Your Money" with its treated vocals, synthesizer volume swells and effects. But when Daniels' muted guitar comes in at about midpoint and the rest of the band drops away momentarily, I want to blow my speakers straight in my eardrums. It's just that awesome.
Not all critics are pleased with Spoon's willingness to experiment, which to some comes off as unfocused dabbling. But a band like Spoon has an obligation to itself and to its fans to keep pushing forward. And that's exactly what it's done on Transference. And for those who just don't get it, you can always go back to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. There's no shame in that.