Artists can be forgiven for having control issues when everything they touch is gold. Britt Daniel, Spoon's gifted frontman, crafts brilliantly understated pop gems that follow a strict protocol: Keep the mix clean, the orchestration tight and the lyrics a bit oblique. It's a carefully plotted formula that's helped make Spoon one of the most reliably gratifying bands of the past 15 years, with more than a dozen studio albums and EPs to its name.
Transference, the group's latest record — and the first it produced itself — stays the course, with simple two-beat rhythms, spiky piano grooves and crisp guitars. Daniel, along with drummer Jim Eno, keyboardist Eric Harvey and bassist Rob Pope, methodically injects a handful of catchy hooks and uncluttered studio effects to give the songs some lift.
But, as with most of Spoon's work, Transference's genius lies in what isn't said. If the songs lack obvious sonic adventure, they more than compensate with flawless execution and an unshakable sense that something darker or more mysterious is lurking beneath the glittering riffs and poppy beats. Daniel and company know that art is more compelling when it plays with the audience's imagination. In the case of Spoon, that exercise in restraint makes Transference memorable and alluring.
Transference is available to stream here in its entirety for the week leading up to its official release on Jan. 19, as part of NPR Music's Exclusive First Listen series.