Quick Spins: Spoon's 'Transference'

Tuesday, January 19, 2010; C03


Spoon emerged as one of the great bands of the '00s because it strictly adhered to one of rock's most overlooked principles: The notes you don't play are as important as the ones you do play. Britt Daniel's songs are taut masterpieces of efficiency. The approach even trickles down to his vocals. Why sing an entire line when a simple "Woo!" suffices?

On its seventh album, "Transference," Spoon takes its less-is-more strategy to the extreme, with staggering results. It's the band's most skeletal set of songs yet; the open spaces create a vacuum that emphasizes each and every bass thump or piano plink. Lurking in the corners are the smart hooks and melodies that have always been present. It may take a few listens to realize it, but "Transference" rates as yet another highlight in a career that has known nothing but.

Daniel has methodically phased the electric guitar out of Spoon albums and the trend continues here. It makes only a cameo, tension-building appearance on "Who Makes Your Money," a song that best captures the band's new signature sound. It's a sultry, slow-burning number built on a slinky bass line and Daniel's alternately whispered and falsetto vocals. "Nobody Gets Me but You" ups the funk ante with a retro-synth sound straight from Prince's "Dirty Mind," while "Goodnight Laura" is an unadorned piano ballad.

Even the most direct, guitar-driven song on the album -- the deliriously catchy "Trouble Comes Running" -- isn't without its quirks. The drums are buried in the mix, the fidelity changes halfway through and the first lyric finds Daniel stating, "I was in a functional way." Huh? That line, like the rest of the album, may seem like it's missing something. But upon further review, both are perfect as is.

-- David Malitz

Recommended tracks "Who Makes Your Money," "Trouble Comes Running," "Nobody Gets Me But You"

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