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Spoon, ‘Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’ (Merge)

Here’s a short list of things Spoon frontman Britt Daniel has written wrenching songs about: chloroform, a promotional cassette, a metal detector, a fitted shirt, his former A&R rep. On Spoon’s sixth album, he adds a wonderful new junk-drawer item to this list with “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” which repeats the same three lines (“It’s just my Japanese cigarette case / Bring a mirror to my face / Let all my memories be gone”), mantralike, over a spare funk groove.

Daniel’s fixation on life’s minutiae is probably not a manifestation of a raging obsessive-compulsive disorder. Like characters in a Raymond Carver story, the damaged folk who populate Spoon songs sweat the small stuff because it’s the only way they know how to cope with the big stuff.

Dysfunctional relationships and emotional detachment are recurrent themes, but Daniel is more a portraitist than a storyteller. Unhinged rocker “Don’t Make Me a Target” is full of remarkably vivid images (“He smells like the inside of closets upstairs / The kind where nobody goes”). The bright, bouncy “The Underdog” paints lonely scenes fraught with tension and frustration, then couches them in buoyant horns and handclaps. The tug-of-war between bristly unavailability and candid confession mirrors a musical duel between post-punk snarls and genial pop charms. There’s no resolution, but the struggle itself is endlessly compelling.

Now Watch This: Spoon – “The Underdog” QUICKTIME