I’m currently building out a series of emails for people who sign up for my mailing list, and in doing so I’m recounting my journey through music, from becoming obsessed with discovering new music to channeling that passion into sharing the bands and records I love.
In the first message, I looked back at my first ever new album that I purchased on vinyl: Keep It Like A Secret by Built To Spill. Well friends, below is that story and the impact the band has had on my journey over the years.
It was 1999 and I had popped into Portland, OR to Everyday Music. Built to Spill had just released their new album, Keep It Like A Secret, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!
Keep It Like A Secret was A BEGINNING for me. It was THE album that sparked my passion for wax.
What set this album apart was that it was NEW, something few others had heard from a band I already loved!
I’ve already shared that Perfect From Now On, Built to Spill’s 1997 LP, had become an instant favorite of mine. It was lyrically dense, it had these great melodic hooks, and Doug Martsch’s vocals were not what you’d expect if you’d only listened to relatively mainstream music.
Keep it Like a Secret is different, as you so often get with Built to Spill. Each album is so distinctly THEM, but at the same time it’s quite different from everything else they’ve done. Where Perfect From Now On has this swirling, ethereal nature to it, Keep it Like a Secret has a solid rock edge to its nature that was really par for the late 90s indie bands from the Northwest — Built to Spill hailing from Boise but regularly mingling with fellow Pacific Northwest bands and labels like Up Records, Sub Pop, Modest Mouse, and more.
“Else” & Other Early Favorites by Built to Spill
My favorite track back then was the emotive strummer “Else.” That strum, Doug Martsch’s vocal hooks, and the emotive nature of the song still draws me in today. And I’ll say — in their 2023 tour supporting last year’s When the Wind Forgets Your Name, they played it when they came through Dallas and it damn near brought tears to my eyes.
Early singles from the LP like “The Plan” and “Center of the Universe” were favorites back in the early years of the album. They are solid tracks, well crafted and cohesive — much like the album as a whole. But given the test of time, they don’t hold up as much as I would have thought back then. I still view them fondly and enjoy them thoroughly. They just no longer hold that pinnacle spot in my mind.
Current Favorites from Keep it Like A Secret
Instead, these days, I lean toward favoring “You Were Right” and the lengthy album closer “Broken Chairs.” Both songs, like “Else,” pull a bit at the heartstrings and weave in Martsch’s elusive story-like lyricism that simply set them apart.
These songs entrance me, draw out emotion that — back then — I struggled to let out in my day-to-day life.
The Lasting Impact of Built to Spill
This album will always be nostalgic to me. It will always have a special place in my heart. Keep it Like a Secret got me excited to continue seeking out new music.
To this day, Built to Spill remains among my favorite bands. I have an entire section in my collection devoted to the band, and I’ve covered them a few times here on FensePost and over on my YouTube Channel.
I even put together an Artist Spotlight on Spotify that spans the band’s career:
Built to Spill is one of those bands that sucks you in. If you dig it, you REALLY dig it!
My questions for you: Do you remember the first record you purchased with your own money? What was it? Do you still have it? Drop a comment below.