Tag Archives: Built to Spill

Top 25 Songs of 2009: 15

15) “Aisle 13,” Built to Spill. Before the veteran indie rockers released 2009’s There Is No Enemy, this writer appreciated Built to Spill from a safe distance: singles only, please. “Car” was a big hit freshman year of college and for obvious reasons. Lead singer Dough Martsch sounds like a candid sophomore; he’s got advice for you but also a lot of questions. In “Car” reality is, as cliché as it sounds, almost always like a dream (“I wanna see the movies of my dreams”). The whole song pivots between a desire to have the world explained (“I wanna see it when you find out what comets, stars, and moons are all about”) and the deep seeded fear that these things about life are mysterious for a reason (“You’ll get the chance to take the world apart and figure out how it works / Don’t let me know what you find out”). It’s the stoned philosophical babble of a freshman “on a cloudy breezy desert afternoon.”

As for the instrumentation, the song relies an unusual amount on the cello to carry it forward. We don’t like to argue that strings or cellos actually sound like nostalgia or earnest emotion or anything along those lines. That’s just silly. But, seriously, in “Cars” the cellos aren’t adding just low frequencies — they are what pushes the song past its loud drums and screeching guitars (the traditional instruments of overwhelming teenage emotion; see: music, punk) and into an arena peculiar for guitar-rock bands of the 90s. Perhaps that is the right word for this whole song, its themes, its instrumentation, Martsch’s singing, the cellos — everything is, just, well, peculiar. And catchy too, we might add.

What’s strange too is that 15 years later and BtS finally release another song that catches my ear. Get this: it’s about the same shit as “Car”. The chorus’ second couplet is the exact sentiment the band captured all the way back in 1994: “No one knows cuz no one wants to / know what’s in their minds.” A decade and a half after “Car” and the band is still grappling with the same issues — dreams, the mind, reality — but this time it’s not mystery hiding away, it’s human nature denying us answers. No one wants to know.

Note that this kind of skepticism about mankind fits nicely with caricatures of bitter old men, which BtS could be. Lucky for you, they just aren’t. An older Martsch (maybe wiser, too?) still sings like his senses are overwhelmed, the high tone in his voice and the cadence retaining the bemused style of 1994. And Martsch keeps observing, in a way: “Every day / something strange / I can’t explain / happens to me / often I am called by name to clean up Aisle 13.” The mess, we imagine, is the result of flabbergasted adolescents stumbling up and down the aisles, knocking milk off the shelves. This time BtS assume the role of reassuring father figure, “don’t be all / so all afraid / everyone / has weird dreams.”

Sure, the message isn’t mind-blowing — but it doesn’t have to be. The band knew something all along: that milk, it was built to spill. Don’t worry about cleaning up, 15 years later and BtS still have you covered.

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Filed under Fred | Unnecessary, Top 25 Songs of 2009

Top 25 Albums of the Decade & Top 5 Songs of the Week


Due to Brett’s suffering with lisztomania, I’ve been convinced that posting a Top 25 Albums of the Decade is in order. That will be coming soon (maybe even with download links, if I think we won’t get shut-down faster than a crack slinger in Beverly Hills). But, since that posts would require quite an investment of time, labor, and capital, and it being Halloween, a Top 5 Songs of the Week will have to be enough sugar for you’ll (all 1 of you)  to last through the weekend.

1) 11th Dimension — Julian Casablancas

This song feels like what we’ve all been waiting for from Mr. Casablancas. Giddy, 80s keyboards rocking back and forth behind his suave vocals. Moreover the song is fantastically catchy, but even after hearing it 15 times you still won’t be able to explain to someone else how it goes without hearing the music. It’s a puzzle of a song, a bunch of different pieces, all decadent and neon with an energy that feels just right for a Saturday night.

Download: 11th Dimension (Megaupload)

2) Kiseki — Andrew W.K.

And you thought Andrew W.K. was awesome before? Try Mr. AWK throwing his party-anthem talents at a full album of Japanese pop songs (technically called J-pop). It’s got comedy (the direct, silly lyric translation), serious power chord rock-outs, a breakdown stolen straight out of a Wolf Parade song, and a chorus that hits like an atom bomb. Oh, was that in poor taste? My mistake.

Download: Kiseki (Mediafire)

3) Aisle 13 — Built to Spill

Before their newest album, There is No Enemy, Built to Spill have never been able to keep my attention. But all that’s changed. Album opener “Aisle 13” has that perfect balance between the vocals — which sound like teenagers star-gazing, that sort of bewildered, soft tone that’s unique to Doug Martsch — and the detailed, mature guitar rock that backs up the track. The lyrics are bugged-eyed too, the kind of adolescent stoner revelations you might have alone with your best-friends (“No one sees because no one wants to / see what’s in their minds). Plus, as one commentator mentioned on YouTube, the track name is rather clever: Built to Spill on Aisle 13. Are we talking about spilling groceries or idle minds?

4) It Ain’t Gonna Save Me — Jay Reatard

Is it punk rock? Disco? Dance punk? Trendy hipster bullshit? Catchy as fuck? All I know is that I can’t stop listening to it. And once you give it try, no one will be able to save you either.

Download: It Ain’t Gonna Save Me (Matador’s Website)

5) Yalira — The Very Best

The Very Best are one of those global bands. Singer Esau Mwamwaya is from Malawi and some of the other guys in the band are European. Whatever, all that shits not that important. The song, on the other hand, is. Warm chants, Afro-beats, a hip-hop low end, this track really does come from the Warm Heart of Africa. As your listening, wave hello to Ted Gurney — this is about as close as most of us will ever come to Togo.

Download: Yalira — The Very Best (Mediafire)

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Filed under Fred | Unnecessary, Top 5 Song of the Week