Published Apr 17, 2015After 20 years, Built to Spill are still inexplicably on Warner Bros., releasing their sixth album for the label. Their first full-length in six years, Untethered Moon, doesn't offer any surprising twists or digressions from the band's previous seven releases. As per usual, the line-up was switched around once again, with mainstay Doug Martsch bringing in a new rhythm section — band roadies Jason Albertini on bass and Steve Gere on drums — to join him, Jim Roth and Brett Netson on guitar.
Recorded after a previous collection of recordings were scrapped, thanks to the departure of Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf, Martsch brought in regular collaborator Sam Coomes (Quasi) as a co-producer to help stir creative juices. Time has never been much of a concern to Martsch, and Untethered Moon follows a similar pace to its predecessors, allowing the band's three-guitar-powered, intertwined jamming to continue steering the ship. But here's the thing: Untethered Moon is arguably the most enjoyable Built to Spill album since 1999's pivotal Keep It Like A Secret. Doug Martsch's lyrics are vague and poignant, and seem to touch on a darker note than usual, but there is a directness to these songs that has been missing for a few albums.
Despite the overwhelming blues, Martsch and co. turn out the right kind of guitar-tistry to keep it from falling into sad-sack territory. They give "Never Be the Same," an older number that is one of his most resounding pop moments in years, an underlying shade of melancholy in its concerns about mortality. Then on the flipside, he repeats "I got lost" over and over on "When I'm Blind," over a scuzzy, distorted riff that ends the album on a rousing journey; it rivals some of his best solos to date. On "All Our Songs," Martsch sings that "rock'n'roll will be here forever." Considering Built to Spill's ability to subsist for 23 years and make albums as solid as Untethered Moon, so will they, hopefully. (Warner)