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Spoon has been steadily climbing up the rock ladder for the past 16 years, which makes its success now even sweeter.

SPOON FRONT MAN BRITT DANIEL can look back on his nearly two- decade career with a bit of hard-earned perspective and a lot of satisfaction.

“There were certain times when I figured I wasn’t going to be able to make music be the thing that I did with my life,” Daniel says. “That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to keep doing it; it just meant that I figured I’d have to go back to school or keep working these copyediting jobs and play in my spare time.”

Daniel doesn’t have to worry about a day job any longer. Spoon has established itself as one of American rock’s leading lights; it’s now a critical darling, popular favorite, and TV- and movie-soundtrack perennial.

Formed by Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in 1993, the group — which has featured an otherwise rotating cast of players and currently includes bassist Rob Pope and multi- instrumentalist Eric Harvey — released its first album, the taut postpunk effort Telephono, for Matador Records in 1996. It made the jump to major label Elektra Records in 1998, putting out a single, orphaned LP called A Series of Sneaks for the company that same year. The group then returned to the indie ranks, signing with Merge Records, and proceeded to produce five stellar albums during the 2000s. Each successive album grew the band’s fan base exponentially, and Spoon finally landed in the Billboard 200’s top 10 with 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

To Daniel, the band’s success is partly a by-product of the demise of the traditional record business. “The revolution of the Internet has helped bands like us a lot — bands that maybe people in gatekeeper positions in the past would have thought couldn’t sell,” he says. “Well, now those gatekeeper positions don’t really exist, and people can go find what they want on their own.”

Musically, Spoon has moved from the stripped-down soul of 2001’s Girls Can Tell to the sharp singer- songwriter touches of 2002’s Kill the Moonlight to the textured pop of 2005’s Gimme Fiction, constantly developing and refining its sound. “I never really noticed a progression, not as it was happening,” Daniel says. “It seems like we’ve just tried to push forward. I mean, you do evolve, but the best evolving might happen when you’re not aware of it.”

The group’s new record, Transference, heralds a significant sonic shift — much of it thanks to Daniel, who elected to upgrade from his favored four-track home-studio setup to a digital system, which resulted in a batch of demos that were so good, the band elected to use them as the bases, and in some cases, the finished products, for the new album.

“He was capturing a lot of spontaneity with his recordings,” Eno says. “A lot of times when you go in and rerecord that stuff, you lose the spontaneous nature of it. So we recorded on top and built up from the demos.”

Transference standouts like “The Mystery Zone,” “Out Go the Lights,” and “Is Love Forever?” prove Daniel’s gift for canny song crafting, as he conjures little touches that instantly reel listeners in. “Sometimes, what grabs you is a great melody or a certain beat. Sometimes, it’s a great vocal rhythm — the way you’re saying the words — that can be a hook in itself. Occasionally, it’s a guitar riff,” Daniel says. “You’re always trying to look for those angles, those things that stand out.”

With this new disc, Daniel hopes to continue Spoon’s upward trend. He remembers leaner times for the band and says its slow progression has made the members appreciate their success that much more.

“But ultimately,” he says, “the reason we still exist after 16 years is because we want to, because we have a good time playing, and because there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.”

A Heaping Spoon-ful

We choose four favorites from the band’s catalog.

“Everything Hits at Once”
(Girls Can Tell, 2001)

Moody, blue-eyed soul that floats along a cloud of vibes and keyboard

“The Way We Get By”
(Kill the Moonlight, 2002)

A propulsive piano pounder that’s turned up in multiple films and TV series, including The O.C. and Stranger Than Fiction

“Sister Jack”
(Gimme Fiction, 2005)

An homage to the Who that readily attests the kids are all right

“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”
(Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2007)

Brass-fueled bliss carried by Britt Daniel’s feather-light croon