Mulling over the goal behind recording the seventh studio album from his angular art-punk band Spoon during a recent interview with the New York Times, bandleader Britt Daniel said, "I just didn't want it to sound as fretted over--and in a way that's a total lie, because it was totally fretted over." This contradiction has been at the heart of Spoon's appeal for 17 years now: The group's best songs sound effortless, almost tossed off, and you only realize that they're also brilliant and irresistible when you find yourself still humming them six months or six years later.
Some of the albums Daniel has made with drummer Jim Eno, the one other constant amid a revolving roster of bandmates during the last 17 years, have emphasized artistic experimentation (such as "Kill the Moonlight" in 2002), while others have been more straightforward melodically (including the group's last and most successful disc, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" in 2007). All of them are built on the familiar ingredients of atmospheric drones, minimal but propulsive grooves and cryptic Beat-poetic lyrics delivered in an inscrutable monotone--hallmarks of the band's most obvious influences, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground--and among its peers, only Yo La Tengo has so consistently done so much with so little for so long.
"Transference," the band's first self-produced disc, doesn't radically differ from anything it's done in the past--it's a little more laidback and hypnotic than "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," better suited for driving on a long road trip than filling the dance floor at a house party. But from the quietly dramatic opener "Before Destruction," through the unexpected ballad "Goodnight Laura," to the fractured closing collage of "Nobody Gets Me but You," this is another welcome example of the band's casual genius.