Spoon | Transference (Merge)

Tension of the opposites is the key descriptive phrase here.

 

 Transference: a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, particularly of childhood, and the substitution of another person…for the original object of the repressed impulses. The key to success addressing transference in the therapy process, according to Jung, is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process, and that this tension allows one to grow and to transform. 

Having lived with Transference for about a month now, I keep thinking about jazz music, and the infamous Lisa Simpson quote about listening to the notes that “aren’t played.” Jazz composition, by its nature, tends to play with forms, expand them, twist them, quote them, then leave them behind. And, so much of rock and pop music has traditional, fairly linear structures, chord progressions, verse-chorus-verse, sometimes with a bridge. None of that seems to be on the table with this release. Bringing me back to jazz, a jazz song sets a scene, then lets the musicians fill in the details. For much of this album, Spoon is setting a scene, and Britt Daniel’s details are not always the band’s details, which makes for interesting, layered listening. 

Tension of the opposites is the key descriptive phrase here. The album begins with “Before Destruction,” and there is definitely tension in this song, a sense of contrast, of conflicting textures. Smooth and plunking and anxious and sharp edges rolled into one. That relentless percussion, the droning lead-in and Daniel’s voice slightly back in the mix, as if he’s struggling to be heard across a crowded room, begging for understanding. The interplay of Daniel’s somewhat mushy voice and the crisp musical elements sets up a dynamic that runs through the first seven songs. “Is Love Forever?” feels almost syncopated, the lyrics slightly behind the beat, a melody trying to catch up with yet another driving drum/cymbal rhythm. And the repeated, ever-louder and insistent “Are you quite certain, love?” exploding into the question of the title creates a palpable sense of anxiety; my shoulders actually became tense. And that tension of opposites continues to play out, and is the central theme of “Written in Reverse,” not only musically, but lyrically as well: “I’ve seen it in your eyes/ I’ve seen you blankly stare/ And I wanna show you how I love you/ but there’s nothing there.”

“Trouble Come Running” ends the explicitly “tense” songs on the collection, and “Goodnight Laura” ushers in the release, a melancholy, piano-based ballad to the smoother, more integrated pop composition of “Out Go the Lights.” As listeners, we can begin to breathe again, take refuge in a little bit of quiet reflection. The last two songs, “Got Nuffin” and “Nobody Gets Me But You,” seek to answer the questions posed at the beginning of the album. After all the exploration and juxtaposition and contrast, we find ourselves shedding the “darkness and shadows…loneliness and patterns,” but right back where we started, with another insistent drum beat, another droning tone in the background, the tension in the musical elements this time illustrating the interplay of opposites is the driving force behind everything we do. 



Our emotions are not always linear; they are often nuanced, wandering, with strange corners and undertones. The narrative always takes an unexpected turn. With Transference, Spoon has created a near-perfect exploration into the way emotion and rationality interact in our brains, and how that interaction writes the score to our dealings with our friends, neighbors and selves.  A- | Courtney Rau




RIYL: Gang of Four, The Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma

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