Today's installment of my personal 2010 "Best Of" non-local music series features Spoon, a band that I doubt regular readers — both of them — will be surprised to find planted firmly among my garden of year-end treats. For one thing, they're a, ahem, perennial favorite, and for my meager money, the best rock band working in the US today. Yes, really. For another, I was practically orgasmic when their 2010 album, Transference, came out early this year. And for yet another, when I grow up, I want to be Britt Daniel.
In some ways, Transference delved even deeper into the "less-is-more" idea explored on their previous album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The songs here strip superficial pop constructs like paint thinner. While so much of indie-rock moves toward high-fructose ear candy and uses glo-fi glitter to mask inferior chops and writing, Spoon continue to chip away at rock's facade, exposing the raw, bloodied nerve endings at the core of their music. Or something.
I had the chance to catch Spoon live in Boston earlier this year. As I wrote at the time, it was the best show I never saw. Unfortunately, due to my poor vantage point on the Mezzanine level at the House of Blues, I had to watch the show on a projection screen, which was of course just a split second behind the live sound. Frustrating. Eventually, my compatriots and I resigned ourselves to hanging by a satellite bar, enjoying the concert armed with but our ears and few rounds of Narragansett tall boys — that's PBR, southern New England style. Ask your dad.
Even without the benefit of good — or any — sight lines, it was among my favorite concerts of the year. The sound at HOB is unparalleled. I've rarely ever heard sound mixed so well or presented so clearly. And Spoon are as dynamic and interesting live as they are on record, which is truly saying something. If you have the chance to see them, pay special attention to bassist Rob Pope and drummer Jim Eno. As remarkable as Daniel's songwriting is, Spoon would not be the same without their inventive interplay.
Anyway, here are a couple of Spoon clips. The first is the official Merge Records video for "Written in Reverse," from Transference. The second is Daniel performing "I Summon You" from Gimme Fiction, solo acoustic in the back of a taxi cab. And by the way, Spoon has a collection of outtakes from 2008-2009 called Bonus Tracks — clever, no? — available for download on their website. It ain't free, but it's cheap and certainly interesting as a companion to their work over the last few years. Enjoy.