Shadow Aspect (Obscure Magpie)

Indie rock, when you get right down to it, isn't bound by limitations. "Indie," in case you forgot, is merely shorthand for "independent," and without the kind of pressure facing major-label alt-rock groups, an indie band in the truest sense of the word is generally free of creative burdens. So, it's a shame that indie rock is so frequently guilty of playing it safe. When Pavement, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire released their debut records, they all sounded fresh. Hundreds of other bands that stick to a familiar formula don't sound so fresh.

The irony of being a small-time artist is that the tendency to think small is all too prevalent. Transfer, who have been performing and releasing music for more than a decade, are technically an indie-rock band because they release albums independently. But their music aims for something bigger. They don't play indie rock in the loaded sense of the term. They're a rock 'n' roll band, and a pretty damn good one at that.

Shadow Aspect, their fourth album (a double LP), reflects the ambition that Transfer shows in the music they make. Not a song on this 12-track set is anything less than soaring or heroic. And even at their subtlest, there's always a big chorus or a powerful climax just around the corner. 

Opening track "Dark Behavior" sends a clear message that you're about to hear something arena-sized. A widescreen choral arrangement gives way to a U2-style rock anthem with subtle touches of shoegazing guitars. From there, the band amplifies Spoon-style grooves on "The Widow," ramps up the handclaps and stomping rhythms on "Kills Me Every Time" and goes for the psychedelic-folk, Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes gusto on standout "Reflections of Home."

Transfer aren't exactly innovators, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Being an experimental band often means a higher ratio of broken eggs to omelets. On Shadow Aspect, Transfer put their own, soaring spin on familiar sounds. They do what they do well, and that's the best thing a band can do.

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