Spoon plays a dirty trick with "Transference," a seemingly underwhelming album that eventually coalesces after a few plays.
The first thing that strikes you is its almost lo-fi, somewhat muddy production. It largely defines the sound the album, and makes it the most sonically cohesive and singular Spoon album yet. Musical voices blend and blur; Britt Daniel's vocal is at one moment buried in the mix, then strikingly brought forward. It's a jarring experience, especially coming off of the bold and bright Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Transference is not a "difficult" album by any means (this is Spoon, after all), but its production tempers the immediacy of the songs, which don't reveal their charms upfront. Songs like "Got Nuffin," "Trouble Comes Running," and "The Mystery Zone," are as good as Spoon gets. Yet if they were recorded for an earlier Spoon album, they would have popped and grabbed the listener from the get go. Here they slowly unwind and burrow their way into your ears.
What at first seems like a retreat from the triumph of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, turns out to be a shrewd redefining of Spoon's trademark sound. The songs are as economical as ever, yet there is a looseness (and a confidence) that Spoon hasn't shown before. Still, the album is flawed. A few songs meander a bit too long ("I Saw the Light"), and the album's gorgeous standout ballad, "Goodnight Laura," ends a minute too soon. But taken as a whole, Transference rewards replay more than any of Spoon's previous works. It's a knockout record that compels the listener to start it up again as soon as the last track ends. It doesn't reach the giddy heights of Kill the Moonlight or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but it comes pretty damn close.