Editors' pick

Built to Spill


Editorial Review

There's always been tension in Built to Spill's music, but the conflict was mostly musical. Over 16 years and eight albums, singer-guitarist Doug Martsch has struggled for balance between shapely tunes and shaggy improvisations. The battle continues on "There Is No Enemy" but now seems inspired less by compositional style than by personal quandaries. The resulting vehemence makes this the Idaho-based group's best album in a decade.

The uneasy songs include "Pat," a tribute to a departed friend that's uncharacteristically fast and direct. But Martsch's introspection is most obvious in such gentler material as "Nowhere Lullaby" and "Things Fall Apart." "Still here and I don't know why," muses the singer in the former, while the latter warns, "Stay out of my dreams/You're not even welcome in my memories."

The album includes a half-dozen giddy multi-guitar workouts. These include "Planting Seeds" (which lambastes pop-industry commercialism) and "Good Ol' Boredom" (which extols tedium over "nonstop anxiety"). Whatever the threats to Martsch's serenity, "There Is No Enemy" shows that he can still banish them with a spiraling guitar line.

-- Mark Jenkins, Weekend (Oct. 2009)