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Since its inception in Austin, in 1993, Spoon has had a skyrocket trajectory with six terrific albums, each one topping the last. It’s been two and a half years since the hand-clap-and-horn-laden rock and soul of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga kicked the group even further up the national exposure chain. So now what? A return to basics. Transference (Merge) is Spoon’s first self-produced release, and it’s not nearly as tidy as the others. But even at Spoon’s most polished, the production on past albums has consisted mostly of embellishments: Britt Daniel’s guitar and Jim Eno’s drums have always dominated, and here the band retreats to that core sound. The arrangements are more edgy and skeletal—or so it seems at first. Much as a person speaking softly, the band makes you pay close attention with subtle, whip-smart details that gradually come into focus. Rarely has a group done more with less. Whether his vocals are a whisper or a snarl over the pounding, locked-down grooves, Daniel comes across intent and possessed; his new songs are as incisive as ever, and Spoon has never sounded better. Damned if they didn’t do it again.