1999, Music

Keep It Like a Secret (1999) by Built to Spill

I think I am predisposed to like every Built to Spill record. There’s something about a good guitar solo or jam that goes straight to my heart. Martsch is such a compelling player that he long ago overcame whatever aversion I would have to his voice, a voice which is not the kind I normally love.

But this record, often thought of as their best, is definitely not my favourite of theirs so far. Some of this is just the nature of the band – often their songs take time to warm up to – but I think some of it is the very deliberate artistic choice Martsch made here.

These songs… well, they’re noticeably and deliberately less ambitious than Perfect From Now On, my first and, at the moment, favourite record of theirs. Part of what I enjoy about that record is the ambition. That ambition is mostly gone here, or at least contained in much shorter pieces.

Everything else about the band appears to have stayed mostly the same: this is still pretty damn muscular for indie rock and still very well played. They still find that line between reverence for classic rock and sounding utterly themselves (i.e. they could never have existed in the 1970s). I still really like the band.

And I suspect I will eventually come to like these songs more than I currently do. I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually come around on the record. But, right now, it’s a titch disappointing because I want to hear multi-part songs and cellos and stuff.


All songs written by Built to Spill except “Broken Chairs,” which includes lyrics by the poet Uhuru Black.

  1. “The Plan” – 3:29
  2. “Center of the Universe” – 2:43
  3. “Carry the Zero” – 5:44
  4. “Sidewalk” – 3:51
  5. “Bad Light” – 3:22
  6. “Time Trap” – 5:22
  7. “Else” – 4:09
  8. “You Were Right” – 4:45
  9. “Temporarily Blind” – 4:48
  10. “Broken Chairs” – 8:40
  • Doug Martsch – guitar, vocals, producer
  • Brett Nelson – bass
  • Scott Plouf – drums

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