Built to Spill

Ancient Melodies of the Future (Warner Bros.)

Record Reviews

Built to Spill

Ancient Melodies of the Future (Warner Bros.)

Built to Spill have produced their fair share of great pop tunes -- the Boise band is an indie rock institution, after all -- but the genius of singer-guitarist Doug Martsch's musical vision has traditionally lived in the exploration of melody and theme, often at great length and volume. Knowing this, the brevity of their newest studio effort, Ancient Melodies of the Future, may be a bit shocking. The songs are more compact and more precise, trimmed of jams and flourishes, made dense with keyboards and string effects and held, for the most part, to a single movement. The rolling "In Your Mind" could have taken off where it ends into a guitar ramble of huge proportions, but it doesn't. "Alarmed" and "You Are" work toward the classically anthemic Built to Spill structure, but are cut to reasonable lengths in the end. Reasonable lengths for pop songs, that is, which is the territory this album marks as its own. Martsch has poured his considerable songwriting skills and passion for exploration into the three-and-a-half-minute format, and the results, while not as immediately explosive as their previous studio effort Keep It Like a Secret, deliver their impact through subtlety. Of course, Martsch's soaring stratocaster riffs are still wonders to behold, beefed up by the now-regular drums of Scott Plouf and bass of Brett Nelson, it's just they've all become a bit more selective in regard to what goes and what remains. In the end, it's still Built to Spill, and it's still by far the brightest light in the indie rock sky.

***.5

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