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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Built to Spill
You In Reverse
Warner Brothers

Rating: 8/10 ?

April 10, 2006
Ever since 1997's Perfect From Now On, Built to Spill has tried to circumvent its often-scrutinized persona and shake off the moniker "Built to Bore" that some detractors have labeled them with. That album actually catapulted front man Doug Martch from the rank of lo-fi indie every-man to powerhouse songwriter and guitar god, but it became an inescapable benchmark along the band's ascension to the throne of Dinosaur Jr.'s burgeoning guitar-based rock structures, and the band has been living it down ever since. The steady, drawn out compositions are thoroughly pondered pieces that recollect Neil Young's classic rock sound with Pavement-like indie pop, weaving a meticulous pattern that combines exceptionally memorable melodies with epic guitar-based songs that surpass the standard lo-fi arrangements set by their debut album, Ultimate Alternative Wavers.

It wasn't until 1999's Keep it Like a Secret that Built to Spill began to shed its psychedelic skin for a more centered approach. That album combines huge guitars with an appetite for shorter songs and unmistakable melodies, fluidly moving between story telling and abstract streams of random thought. The song arrangements are more experimental but contain the catchiest guitar successions and melodic deliveries that the band's evolving line up had ever produced.

Although Ancient Melodies of the Future was a mild disappointment, Built to Spill continue to show their flair for writing unconventional guitar pop with their new record. The latest in a long line of studio albums, You In Reverse is riddled with songs made up of catchy choruses, extended guitar jaunts and Martsch's symbolic lyrical passages, a culmination of the band's past, marked with their unmistakable penchant for creating a truly organic yet fully electrified style of rock. The band spins on its side for a fresh approach, sanitizing their sometimes monotonous meandering by forging songs as a unit rather than relying on the single voice of a lead composer. Their most collaborative release so far, You In Reverse is a first for a band whose line up seemed to change on a regular basis. As well-rounded as the album may seem, it is ultimately more about mood than it is about an influx of chord progressions or a glazing of sugary-sweet pop melodies. A distinctively different approach to their song craft, You In Reverse could either signal a defining era for the band or the beginning of the end to another branch of the post-grunge family tree.

Evidence of collaboration is littered throughout this album, beginning with the upbeat, two chord progression-based album starter "Goin' Against Your Mind," which has obviously been pieced together from a number of perspectives. The support between lead guitar, bass and rhythm collectively work as a structural unit to give the song a clear depth even as the tempo remains the same though the entire song. At almost nine minutes, "Goin' Against Your Mind" shows the band still has a hankering for drawn-out jams that distort perceptions and alter the listener's state of rock and roll dementia.

Throughout the album's mesmerizing stream of shifting, Built to Spill show their ability to cause physical ease by changing tones in song structures. "Traces", a mid-tempo alt-rock song that's about as radio friendly as Built to Spill get, plays on atmosphere and restraint to lure its hypnotic arrangement. "Saturday" uses an even more-distilled mood to establish an emotional handle and the album closer, "The Wait," validates Built to Spill's uncanny knack for conjuring up the ethereal with warm imagery and a deep-seated awareness of being trapped in a repressed dream.

Built to Spill have established themselves as exceptional mood setters with You In Reverse, but what about bringing the rock? "Conventional Wisdom" soars high above any whimsical emotional leanings to become the first real rock song on the new album. Taking cues from J Mascis' raw guitar ramblings, the song is indie rock at its finest, but it's the Middle Eastern-like rhythm of "Mess With Time" that really moves the album into head bobbing territory. Melding psychedelic leads over a hard rock riff, the song changes course three and a half minutes in, veering off into a rambling ska-like jaunt. The Boisians avoid falling into the obvious traps inherent in such a risky number and manage to keep their rock/pop sensibilities in check, rendering the foray in their signature artsy sound, perfectly capturing the band's ruptured song structures.

You In Reverse is equal parts subtlety and over self-indulgence, and its problems lie with the latter. More often than not, the stretched out jams seems to take up space rather than move the songs forward. These hiccups may be stumbling points in an awkward collage, or they may be the growing pains of a band searching for a fresh perspective in the face of running out of ideas. Either way, You In Reverse must be heralded as an overall victory for a band that continues to release smart and spirited rock songs that resonate as strongly as ever through the American underground.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor



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