Built to Spill returns with cathartic 'Untethered Moon'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Built to Spill, "Untethered Moon" (Warner Bros.)

On the lead track of Built to Spill's latest album, Doug Martsch sighs, "And now we settle for this complicated metaphor and leave this simple truth unsaid." His sentiment gets at the center of "Untethered Moon," a record flush with blustery guitar passages, hooks and heart.

"All Our Songs" rumbles out of the gate with pounding percussion before giving way to a quip from Martsch's boyish, high register: "It's so hard to tell a face that never rang a bell." Along the way, three different solos torch the verses. "Living Zoo" grazes on everything from early R.E.M. to Dinosaur Jr. before settling into one of his bleary-eyed choruses that never gets old.

A few songs are grounded in a more classic Pacific Northwest sound (the band is based in Boise, Idaho), but pull back or morph into chugging ramblers with psych moves and serpentine melodies around every corner. The blazing "So" seesaws between campfire ballad and towering shards of incendiary guitar.

At one point, Martsch lets on that he's found a place where he'll "always be tethered," and that he'll "be fine in Idaho, America, in the 21st century." Eight albums deep and after a recent lineup shuffle, the simple welcome truth is, Built to Spill hasn't changed much.