Missed Music

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Accessible Indie Rock from Doug Martsch and Built to Spill

Doug Martsch is great with his band...

Doug Martsch is great with his band...

Doug Martsch is a talented Indie Rock songwriter and musician with a unique voice and a very successful band. I’m going to recommend a couple works by him today. First, his band, Built to Spill. If you go to see live music — especially at festivals — there’s a decent chance you could have seen them. They’ve done Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, South by Southwest, and other dates totalling over 100 shows a year for a long time. Since 1993, they have released 7 studio albums and 4 EPs. Every release I have heard has good music on it, but one of my favorites is Ancient Melodies of the Future from 2001.  I liked 6 tracks enough to put them on my iPod:

  • Strange – This song doesn’t sound Indie to me at all. This is straight-ahead, fat-hook pop complete with broad, major guitar chords, Johnny-beat percussion, and even tambourine.
  • The Host – Sounds like a cross between Widespread Panic and The Flaming Lips to me, in that it‘s the kind of patient but heavy groove you would get from Panic but it has the colorful flourishes and vocal performance reminiscent of Wayne Coyne. Great production on this song too. I love the keyboard sound and string arrangements.
  • Trimmed and Burning – Martsch has a talent for writing cool vocal lines. I really like the sung melody in this song.
  • Happiness – The very mellow guitar intro gives way to a dirty rock guitar riff and pounding drums. I’m not sure what’s with the comparisons today, but this song reminds me of Fleetwood Mac.
  • You Are – The beginning and end of this song would make a pretty, quiet ballad but they bookend a towering guitar bridge that takes up the middle half of the song. A beautiful composition.
  • Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss – An entirely danceable song with great lyrics. “And in this ritual you take command and lose control. And in this situation, find an ocean, sell your soul.”
... and very good as a solo artist.

... and very good as a solo artist.

The year after Ancient Melodies was released, Martsch took a break from Built to Spill to record a solo album in his hometown of Boise, ID. Now You Know is full of folky acoustic songs, though he does plug in a few times. The album is very unified in its sound and is great to listen to all the way through. If you’re looking to cherry pick, however, I think these are the three most catchy, accessible songs on the disc.

  • Offer – This is a haunting melody with great acoustic work.
  • Gone – The acoustic work is similar, but the melody is more joyful. I was walking around singing this song for a week after I got this disc. Couldn’t get it out of my head.
  • Lift – Another happy electric/acoustic number that he seems to toss off effortlessly.

If you get a chance to see either Martsch or Built to Spill, try to go do it. I saw them at Bonnaroo and they put on a very enjoyable show.



April 28, 2009 - Posted by | Indie, Popular, Rock, Uncategorized

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