Built to Spill
has always had a resolute formula. First, seduce the audience with memorable choruses and flashy guitar work. Then, having ensnared the listener, introduce the more eccentric elements—quirky guitar fills, howling vocals, peculiar lyrics.
The combination works as Built to Spill displays a reverence for rock’s roots and a willingness to explore its limits. And the approach has led to a diverse body of work—and an equally varied set of fans. Built to Spill’s catalog has 10-minute epics for the jam-band devotee; crunchy guitar hooks for the riff-rocker; and thoughtful, understated numbers for the indie fan.
Here are Built to Spill’s 15 best tracks, with a little something for everyone.
15. “Stop The Show”
Perfect From Now On
Singer, guitarist and bandleader Doug Martsch tests listeners’ resolve with a sleepy, three-minute introduction. But patience is ultimately rewarded: a cacophony of screeching guitars builds and gives way to a jaunty verse and chorus. “Stop The Show” also features a third act wedged at the very end, a saccharine guitar riff accompanied by clacking percussion.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Love
Few indie songs tackle the bawdy subject matter showcased in “Fling”; even fewer do so with a cello arrangement. “Fling” is an elegant song about a lewd experience, and it pulls off the juxtaposition expertly.
13. “Still Flat”
The Normal Years
“Still Flat” starts drowsily and builds into something more formidable. The song spends the next four-and-a-half minutes bouncing between the two modes, with Martsch lending a gifted vocal performance. A handful of horns give the chorus extra lift, along with grandiose lyrics: “another cosmic demonstration/with stars colliding into suns,” Martsch sings.
The Normal Years
“Girl” sounds like a song born of San Diego rather than Boise. It’s upbeat indie that borders on pop-punk. A nimble guitar solo centers the piece at the 1:16 mark, and Martsch ends the tune by spotlighting that rare quality we all seek in a mate: “someone I can talk to, someone I don’t have to talk to.” When the silences are no longer awkward, you’ve found a keeper.
Keep It Like A Secret
“Else” is a breezy, subdued number with some of the band’s most playful guitar fills. The bass—an instrument that doesn’t generally shine on Built to Spill tracks—plucks out an infectious riff.
10. “In Your Mind”
Ancient Melodies of the Future
“In Your Mind” decidedly flouts the verse-chorus-verse structure. Instead, the song starts with an aggressive rhythm section and only grows angrier, Martsch not so much singing as he is lecturing. The result is mesmerizing.
9. “Broken Chairs”
Keep It Like a Secret
In the tradition of Born to Run and Appetite for Destruction, Built to Spill’s fourth studio project ends with an epic, guitar-driven tune that borders on 10 minutes. Flashy guitar solos weave in and out of a somber set of chords.