Spoon: Transference

3 1/2 stars
RIYL: Modest Mouse, Pixies

With an album name like Transference, generally meaning misdirected emotions or a kind of displacement, it should come as no surprise that Spoon side-step their usual M.O for their seventh studio album. For those who grew accustomed to the band’s neatness on albums like Gimme Fictionand Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Transference will feel unkempt, while early adopters of the band might appreciate the album’s raw qualities.

With the standard two to three years Spoon takes between records, it’s clear that a lot of planning goes into each album – but with Transference, that implication is a bit sad, because the album projects a one-off kind of attitude. Apparently the band had to work hard even to make it sound like they didn’t. The songs are rife with actions that make the writing feel half thought out – from pauses in the middle of words and sentences, to uncharacteristically long and directionless instrumentals. It would be something if this resulted in some new experimental form or sound, but it’s not wildly different – just slightly off-kilter. So mostly it reads like Spoon got into the studio with material that hadn’t quite fermented.

With its ambling feel, the tracks that bend the ear are the poppier ones, or the serious deviations in style. On “Written in Reverse,” Britt Daniel is literally screaming for your attention – and get it he does. “Who Makes Your Money,” on the other hand, stands out for its echoey, distant subtlety, and “Goodnight Laura” for its unusual display of sentiment, “When you think your thoughts be sure that they are sweet ones.”

Transference is a classic grower, an album that will reward those with the patience -which will most likely be Spoon’s most established fans. Unfortunately for others, what lingers most may not be the songs, but questions of what might have happened if the band sat on these songs awhile longer, or what might have happened if the band actually went wild instead of just trying to sound like they did. Merge 2010

Spoon MySpace Page

  

White Rabbits: It’s Frightening

It is increasingly difficult to stand out in the overcrowded pop scene these days, but leave it to Missouri transplants White Rabbits (they’ve since relocated to Brooklyn, much like fellow Midesterners Locksley) to take a trick from .38 Special’s playbook and turn it on its ear: two drummers! The similarities end there, though; It’s Frightening, the second long-player from the White Rabbits, takes those two drummers – think Adam and the Ants, not the Doobie Brothers – and frames them with singer Stephen Patterson’s barroom piano and some sparse guitar work to create the kind of angular pop that you’d expect from the bands on the other side of the pond. Britt Daniel’s presence here as producer is no surprise, as the band’s “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” sounds like a lost Spoon track, and Single of the Year candidate “Percussion Gun,” armed to the teeth with handclaps and double-decker harmonies, is delightfully quirky and insanely catchy. That unusual approach to their drum tracks could prove to be an albatross – ask Guster about that one – but for the moment, all is quite well with the White Rabbits. (TBD 2009)

White Rabbits MySpace page

  

Seen Your Video: White Rabbits, “Percussion Gun”

Ladies and gentlemen, the line for Single of the Year starts here.

I’m frankly shocked that these guys are from New York. American bands, particularly young ones, don’t write songs like this anymore, and they certainly don’t use arrangements like this. I had these guys pegged for a UK act all the way, with the Adam & the Ants-style percussion, hand claps and old-fashioned piano. Maybe the arrangement was producer Britt Daniel’s idea, who knows. His band Spoon isn’t exactly playing the American game, either. No matter who’s responsible for putting it together, it’s damn good, and had me racing for the band’s MySpace page. How about that, the other tunes are good, too. Time to hit up the publicist for a review copy. (The band’s album, It’s Frightening, comes out May 19.)

So the tune is definitely a keeper. Now about about the video? Tastefully simple, a rarity these days. The camera spins around – and sometimes above – a circular display of white lights that surrounds the band. That’s it. I bet they shot it in an afternoon, then hit the pub, while the director popped a couple Dramamines and went to bed. Nicely done, lads.

  

Anya Marina: Slow & Steady Seduction Phase II

Anya Marina is an entertainment triple threat—she’s been a radio DJ, an actress, and is now fortifying her music career with a second album release, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II, released on Alexandra Patsavas’ Chop Shop Music label. Patsavas, one of the best-known film/TV music supervisors, placed one of Marina’s songs on the “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack and then signed her to the label. Marina’s unique, sultry vocal is a more alternative version of Gwen Stefani, and her playful songs on Slow & Steady are accented by the hipster production crew of Brian Karscig (Louis XIV) and Britt Daniel (Spoon). Daniel’s drum loops helped give Marina a creative spark and as a result the album is a leap from Marina’s earlier singer/songwriter fare. There are some great moments, especially on the opener “Move You,” the ultra-bouncy “Cut It Out,” and on “Vertigo,” which has an ‘80s, “Pretty in Pink” undertone. But on “Not a Through Street,” which starts out with just an acoustic guitar and Marina’s pure vocal, her appeal jumps through the roof. It doesn’t matter if the flavor-of-the-month artist is your thing or not, there will be something most everyone can like about Anya Marina. (Chop Shop/Atlantic)

Anya Marina ySpace Page

  

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