On their last album Perfect From Now On, Built To Spill stretched 8 songs out over the course of 8 minutes and confounded major-label record execs and wowed critics and fans at the same time. Over the course of almost 7-minute average songs, they layered guitars and constructed some unconventional songs to create a really winning album. By contrast, their new release Keep It Like A Secret spans 10 songs and only runs about 47 minutes, but it still manages to contain almost all the things that made the group so great on their last release. It's sort of a cross between the epic masterpieces of Perfect From Now On and the shorter, more pop songs of There's Nothing Wrong With Love. Basically, it's another winner from the group.
Warning: Mini-rant ahead. Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to hear it. I'm going to simply start out by saying that mainstream radio and mainstream music buyers suck. I'm sure most of you reading this will agree with it, but what Built To Spill has done with this album is one of the best examples. I'll admit that their last release (the aforementioned Perfect From Now On) was chocked full of long, unweildy songs, even though it was an amazing album. Besides college radio (where Built To Spill is huge), nobody is going to play a song that runs for 7 minutes unless it has Puff Daddys name attached to it. The thing that's interesting about Keep It Like A Secret, though is that not only do most of the songs fit into a fairly radio friendly format, but they have the backing of a major label behind them. I know that when this disc came out, WB promoted it quite a bit, especially to press (I've heard rumours of a 25 page long press release and clippings archive that was sent out with the disc). I still doubt that it moved very high on the sales chart, though, even after nearly every single review I've read called it brilliant. It is, and that's the problem with mainstream music. People don't want brilliance. They want a three minute cakewalk of canned lyrics and even worse musicianship. Put something on the radio that might challenge them just a bit and they turn the station. Screw that.
Anyway, even though I was ranting, I think you already have the idea what I think about this disc from my comments above. Although there are still a couple tracks that linger on for quite awhile (like the awesome album-closer "Broken Chairs."), this disc is much more concise and even more interesting than their last release. Just think of it this way; Instead of throwing out all the parts where the band goes into those excellent, extended instrumentals, the group has crunched down those parts and gotten rid of anything that might linger on too long. What you're left with is a tighter album that still contains the same things, but in a higher concentration. As they sing on the fourth track entitled, "Sidewalk," "we haven't changed for you." Simply, it's another excellent indie-rock album (that happens to be on a major label) with interesting musical arrangements and not-quite traditional song structures. If you're never heard the group before, Doug Martschs voice may take a little getting used to, but soon you'll be singing right along with him anyway.