7. “Big Dipper” from “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” (1994)
Ahh … one of the poppiest songs from Built to Spill’s poppiest (and many argue best) album. Frontman Doug Martsch is from Boise, which is also the headquarters of the Albertson’s supemarket chain, thus the hometown nod in the rather lonely lyric: “He thought an Albertson’s stir fry dinner would make his apartment a home.”
PS: It was a tight race between “Big Dipper” and another “Wrong With Love” track, “Distopian Dream Girl,” for which song made this list. Just FYI. “Distopian” has another great lyric: “My stepfather looks just like David Bowie, but he hates David Bowie. I think Bowie’s cool! I think ‘Lodger’ rules, and my stepdad’s a fool.”
PPS: I’m sitting here getting ready to publish this post and listening to “Distopian Dream Girl” and thinking maybe I picked the wrong song. Oh well.
8. “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” from “Ancient Melodies of the Future” (2001)
Short, spunky, fun; this is a side of Built to Spill we don’t see all that often. Plus I love the little “maybe, maybe, maybe” part that starts at 1:00. It’s like the aural equivalent of one of those fancy dancing fountains you see at some malls. Finally, there are dozens of bluegrass covers of this song on YouTube. Check ‘em out.
9. “Traces” from the album “You In Reverse” (2006)
A dreamy cut from Built to Spill’s first album back after a five-year layoff, an album Allmusic calls “melancholy,” “quiet and autumnal,” and full of “midtempo ballads.” I think “Traces” really showcases the band that heavily influenced Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse (even though it was released well after those bands were established).
It’s Built to Spill Day on the Frequency blog! That’s because the Boise, Idaho-based indie-rock veterans roll into the Domino Room tonight for their first Bend show since opening for Spearhead on a rainy day in May of 2008.
To celebrate, I’m going to roll out the top 10 Built to Spill songs, one by one at the top of each hour throughout the day. It’ll give folks unfamiliar with the band something to study before tonight’s show, and longtime fans something to do to kill the time between now and then. So check back, see what I pick, and tell me whether I’m right or wrong in the comments! Now, let’s get this nerd-party started.
10. “Else” from the album “Keep It Like A Secret” (1999).
I’ve always found this song’s motorik sway and the lyric “Just this side of love is where you’ll find the confidence not to continue” to be positively hypnotic. It’s my favorite song on Built to Spill’s best album.
Built to Spill is coming to Bend on Wednesday! Very exciting. I rambled on a bit on the band’s amazing three-album run in the late 1990s.
… from 1994 to 1999, Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill — formed nearly two decades ago by Doug Martsch, torchbearer for the Northwest music scene — put together a magical three-album run with “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love,” “Perfect From Now On” and “Keep It Like A Secret.” Each is wonderful in its own way; “Love” spills over with compact, punchy pop songs, “Perfect” sprawls like prog-rock updated for the 21st century, and “Secret” is a splendid marriage of the two, 10 tracks of dreamy, delightful pop-rock bliss.
The common thread is Martsch’s distinctive style: psychedelic guitar heroism more associated with ’70s jams than ’90s indie rock and a lullaby voice that scales Neil Young’s helium-heights, backed by a band with a no-nonsense approach to playing. Built to Spill doesn’t trade in showy stage goofs to draw you in. No, they came to rock, ever so gently, and then build up to a melt-your-face crescendo, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
(Someone called WoodyDee got the above footage of Billy Bragg soundchecking before his show in Bend. Very cool.)
I went and saw Billy Bragg at the Tower Theatre on election night and enjoyed myself quite a bit. The guy is nothing if not entertaining. Here’s an excerpt of my review:
… I was most struck by Bragg’s strong, distinctive voice, and his way with melody. At best, I’m a casual fan of the man’s recorded work, so many of the songs were new to me. But all were tied together by an easygoing charm that belied whatever their lyrical theme happened to be, whether it was Japanese-American internment during World War II, the power of a union, or the “misanthropic, misbegotten merchants of gloom.” Or, you know … a pretty girl.
Bragg was subdued and soulful on “Farm Boy,” and “Shirley” was a fun little slice of sunny pop. He did a few Woody Guthrie numbers, showed off his guitar skills on “The Milkman of Human Kindness,” and provided the prettiest moment of the night through the entrancing, arpeggiated chords of “Tank Park Salute.”