Built to Spill

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2015

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful

His big-league debut was hit-and-miss, but when Action was on his game, it made for some of the most fun hip-hop of the year.

Baroness – Purple

These guys should be viewed as more than our token metal pick, since this was a truly enjoyable album with absolutely monster hooks.

Beach House – Depression Cherry.

The band has begun to reach the point of diminishing returns with their trademark sound, but there are still undeniably beautiful moments to be found, like in the gorgeously stunning “PPP.”

Built to Spill – Untethered Moon

One of our all-time favorites returned with a workmanlike effort.  No extra-long solos, just good solid rock.  And it seems to have rejuvenated the band in their live show.

Lou Barlow – Brace the Wave

The Dinosaur Jr. bassist is famous for being a member of possibly the Loudest Band in Rock, but his solo work explores the opposite end of the spectrum.  A haunting, delicate work.

Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.

If this is the prelude, I can’t wait for the main course.

The Sonics – This Is The Sonics

One of the original garage rock bands reunited to create one of the most improbably awesome comeback albums fifty years after their initial heyday.  Pure rock’n’roll, no bullshit.

Tame Impala – Currents

If only the rest of the album was as awesome as its amazing opening track.  Unfortunately, the efforts to incorporate soul influences led to some rather unmemorable results.


Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

They were able to switch between a wide variety of styles on their debut album, but it was their post-grunge single “Moaning Lisa Smile” that got our attention.

Also Worthy of Praise

Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars; Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man; Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit; Death Grips – The Powers That B; The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World; Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet; Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down; Moon Duo – Shadow of the Sun; Pfarmers – Gunnera; Ratatat – Magnifique; Wavves – V; Wire – Wire.

All Albums That Were Considered

In the interests of full disclosure, here are all the other albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.

The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily,; Coldplay – A Heart Full of Dreams; The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn; Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi; Death Grips – Fashion Week; Deerhunter – Fading Frontier; Destroyer – Poison Season; Destruction Unit – Negative Feedback Resistor; Dr. Dre – Compton; Ducktails – St. Catherine; Editors – In Dream; Elvis Perkins – I Aubade; FFS – FFS; Frog Eyes – Pickpocket’s Locket; Fuzz – II; The Go! Team – The Scene Between; Helvetia – Dromomania; Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?; J Fernandez – Many Levels of Laughter; Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Going Down; Martin Courtney – Many Moons; My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall; Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper; Refused – Freedom; Reptar – Lurid Dream; Silversun Pickups – Better Nature; Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – The High Country; Surfer Blood – 1000 Palms; Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You; Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb; Wavves x Cloud Nothings – No Life For Me; !!! – As If.

Built to Spill, Live at the Wonder Ballroom

Built to Spill returned to their home-away-from-home last week, playing a two-night stand at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland.  We caught the band on the second night as they were finishing up their tour in support of their most recent album, the excellent Untethered Moon.  If the band felt weary after months on the road, they certainly did not show it on Thursday night, as the group played an energetic set that covered just about every part of their vast catalog, including a couple of surprise additions as well.

Outside the Wonder, with that late Oregon summer sunset.

Outside the Wonder, with that late Oregon summer sunset.

The show got off to a raucous start with Keep It Like A Secret opener “The Plan”, with the crowd immediately going nuts as soon as the opening chords were strummed.  We were lucky enough to have a great view of the full band, and were able to enjoy seeing guitarist Jim Roth’s dissonant slide-work create the song’s memorable solo.  From then on the band mixed in new material with old classics, and the crowd greeted the recent stuff with nearly the same approval as their favorites; singles “Living Zoo” and “Never Be The Same” featured some of the group’s catchiest hooks, and “So” has the spirit of many of the band’s brilliant guitar work-outs, so they were natural fits into the group’s standard set.

The band were able to seamlessly shift between different moods and tempos, such as when the group followed the mid-tempo ballad “Liar” with the raging “Pat”.  It would not be a Built to Spill show without a couple of covers thrown into the mix, and the group obliged by including “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain” (a song that I keep forgetting is a cover because of its many appearances in a BTS show, from a side project that Doug Martsch did with Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening called The Halo Benders) and part of “Orion”, which took a few minutes for me to place since they started it off at about the halfway point.  The band finished off the night with a rousing encore, first with the epic “Kicked It In The Sun” before rounding it out with early year favorites “Big Dipper” and “Stab”.

Doug Martsch and co. engaging in some guitar heroics

Doug Martsch and co. engaging in some guitar heroics

Opener Honey Bucket did a good enough job keeping the early crowd entertained with their take on garage rock, and Genders was a solid second act.  Their first song reminded me of post-punk revival in the vein of Interpol, especially with the way their bassist was making full use of the neck for counter-melodies, but the highlight for most of the crowd was their faithful cover of Mazzy Star’s classic “Fade Into You” (even if the guitarist decided that the song’s memorable leads could be mimicked without the use of a slide).  It was an intriguing counterbalance to the headlining act, but it is hard to overshadow Built to Spill when they are on top of their game.  The sound mix overall was excellent, with all three guitar parts balanced perfectly, and the group actually integrated a fairly effective light show into their set.  Overall, it was hard to find a better way to spend twenty dollars on a weeknight.

Review: Built to Spill – Untethered Moon

For a number of years, Built to Spill has been afflicted with the same curse as Spoon: consistent quality.  Like Spoon, who have released a string of exceptional albums since 2001’s Girls Can Tell, over the last decade-and-a-half Built to Spill have steadily produced a series of very good records since the one-two punch of the classics Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like a Secret made them heroes of the indie rock scene.  Both groups have a dedicated fanbase that has passionately welcomed each new release, but to some extent critics have begun to take the quality of the work they produce for granted.  At this point, excellence is to be expected.

Considering the circumstances, it is remarkable not only how comfortable and laid-back Untethered Moon is, but how neatly it fits within the band’s catalog.  In the six years since the release of There Is No Enemy, not only did Doug Martsch scrap an entire album, but longtime members Brett Nelson (bass) and Scott Plouf (drums) left the band.  Though it took some time for replacements Jason Albertini and Steve Gere to get acclimated to the group in their live performances, the transition is seamless on the album.  It is still true that the most important components of a Built to Spill song are Doug Martsch’s guitar parts followed by his trademark vocals, but the new rhythm section has seemingly injected some verve into the songs and rejuvenated Martsch to an extent, even if relatively few of their individual contributions stand out (the drum fills on opener “All Our Songs” and the bass melodies on “Never Be the Same” serving as notable exceptions).

What is most surprising about Untethered Moon is how restrained the guitar-playing is for the majority of the album.  Doug Martsch established himself as one of the Guitar Gods of the alternative scene because of his mastery of each fundamental part of the instrument; not only could Martsch rip out a brilliant and searing lead or create a catchy and memorable riff, but he also was able to precisely construct multiple-part epics that not only perfectly integrated those leads and riffs but managed to surprise listeners with their originality.  Consider how easily classics like “Carry the Zero” or “Kicked It In the Sun” shift between seemingly disparate sections that are nonetheless tied together by Martsch’s inventive songwriting, and how seamlessly Martsch blended multiple interweaving guitar parts.  There are only a few scattered moments that recall Martsch’s previous guitar heroics; instead it is a few select riffs or the occasional quick melody that leaves an impression on the listener.  With its tight, concise songwriting and the relative rawness of its fidelity, the closest analogue in the band’s discography is There’s Nothing Wrong With Love from just over two decades ago.  It is not as if the band has come full-circle though; they are just digging deeper into their repertoire for inspiration.

Untethered Moon lacks a memorable single like the ferocious live staple “Goin’ Against Your Mind” or a cathartic hidden gem like “Things Fall Apart” that are definite standouts, but instead has several strong tracks that will compete to be designated as the listener’s favorite.  When the band hits the road in support of the album, fans should look forward to hearing the band incorporate the new material into their live sets without a hitch, though the particular songs chosen may be a surprise.  Untethered Moon proves that Built to Spill is a well-oiled machine that keeps chugging along, replacing and assimilating new components without any problems whatsoever, and able to continue to produce quality albums well into their career.

Covered: “Some Things Last a Long Time”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original. If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Beach House first came across my radar back in 2010, when their album Teen Dream was released amid heavy buzz and to great acclaim.  I instantly became a fan of their gorgeous melodies and lush music; the band chose a perfect album title, as “dream” truly encapsulated their style.  Beach House’s delicate guitar lines and luscious synths, topped off by Victoria Legrand’s dusky vocals, provided the ideal soundtrack for a beautiful, carefree day on the coast.  I soon worked my way back through their discography, and grew to love those albums as well, including the splendid Devotion, which included all the elements essential to the success Teen Dream but with the added charm of more intimate production.

Devotion has some of my favorite Beach House tunes, including “Wedding Bell” and “Gila”, but there was a track near the end of the album that often stuck with me.  There was something about this song that got stuck in my head, but it was not just the catchy melody; I had the feeling that I had heard the song before, but I could not place it anywhere.  It was not until months later that I realized what spurred that reaction.

While I have long been a fan of Built to Spill, I usually skip over their early work when it comes up on shuffle, preferring to stick in the post-Perfect From Now On sweet spot.  Therefore it makes sense that it took me a few months to realize that I heard the Beach House song in question first as a Built to Spill track; it also did not help that Beach House had shortened the title to “Some Things Last” from the original “Some Things Last A Long Time”, making the process of connecting the two versions in my mind more difficult.  Built to Spill’s version pops up in a few places, though I think it is more likely that I was listening to the “Car” single than the compilation The Normal Years when I pieced the mystery together.  I thought it was pretty remarkable that Beach House would cover a Built to Spill song, considering the vast differences in their styles.  This spurred me to do some research, and it turns out that I had missed a crucial step in the process.

It turns out that both Beach House and Built to Spill were performing covers, and that the original “Some Things Last a Long Time” was a Daniel Johnston song.  I had only a passing familiarity with Johnston, mainly due to reading reviews about the documentary that was made that covered his struggle with mental illness, The Devil and Daniel Johnston; I knew that several of my favorite musicians had held him in high esteem and respected his work, but had never heard his music for myself.

Both Beach House and Built to Spill put their own personal stamp on their versions, so it is easy for the listener to assume that they are the original versions. Beach House emphasizes the deceptively simple melody and gives the song a dreamlike atmosphere, though unfortunately they decided to shorten the song by cutting off a few verses, while Built to Spill’s take adds a buzzsaw-edged guitar that doubles the basic melody and throws in a few intriguing sound effects to the proceedings that makes the song sound like a product of its times, namely the early-90’s.  Each version has its merits, but Beach House in their prime wins out over early-period Built to Spill in my mind.

However, neither cover is able to capture the heartbreak of the original.  Johnston’s high-pitched voice recalls that of a child, which gives the vocals a tinge of naivete.  The verses are built on a straightforward four chord progression that the melody echoes, swooping up before resolving down in pitch; this pattern adds a sense of longing to each line.  Not much else happens for the most part, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics; the simplicity of each statement is what first attracts the attention of the listener, but it obscures the sense of regret behind each verse.  Once you realize how Johnston is able to convey a sense of deep sadness in so few words, it becomes easy to see why he had such an impact on so many musicians.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 20 Edition)

News, new music, and other fun stuff as you celebrate today’s “holiday”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had its induction ceremony this past weekend, and while we won’t be able to see the concert for a couple of months, bits of news have been floating around and low-quality video of some of the performances have surfaced.  The various performances for Lou Reed’s induction are probably the most intriguing, with Beck performing “Satellite of Love” and Karen O with bandmate Nick Zinner taking a stab at “Vicious”.  Of course, no story that mentions the Hall would be complete without mentioning the countless times the committee has failed, so after reading about the specifics of the induction process enjoy a slideshow that argues for the inclusion of 40 other artists.

We are excited for the release of Built to Spill’s latest album, Untethered Moon, tomorrow, and to help our readers get in the mood, we are sharing Consequence of Sound’s 10 song summation of the band as well as the group’s latest video for “Never Be The Same”, a sequel of sorts to the previous “Living Zoo”.

The sight of goofy old people dancing is always fun, which is why it was also the basis for another recent video, “Lonesome Street” from Blur.

Fucked Up has released the B-Side to their yearly EP release based on the Chinese Zodiac, with Pitchfork providing the stream.  Year of the Hare will be released on June 16, but you can listen to “California Cold” now.

We usually do not discuss press releases from the Norway Ministry of Culture, but their announcement over the weekend that the country will shut down FM radio stations in the next two years caught our attention.  Some of my fondest memories are from my time working at a small FM alternative station, so in spite of the fact that in the specific case of Norway this seems to be a smart way to move forward (the fact that they only have five stations as a nation as well as the prevalence of Digital Audio Broadcasting channels seems like it will not be a particularly disruptive shift), it is still jarring to read.  Let us hope that they come up with a way to update all those car stereos before the change is fully implemented.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 30 Edition)

News, videos, and other fun stuff for your possible recovery from Spring Break…

Built To Spill is gearing up for the release of their long-awaited eighth album, Untethered Moon, and they recently posted the video for its first single, “Living Zoo”.  Be sure to read the Noisey interview with Doug Martsch that accompanies it for an insight into what the band has been up to in the past few years and how the current lineup was formed.

Mini Mansions is a new project featuring Michael Shuman, the current bassist from Queens of the Stone Age, and they just released a new video featuring Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys.  Pitchfork has the video and some more background on the shoot, though as the link indicates, it is probably NSFW due to reasons of nudity.  As for the music, the song has the same Gothic vibe that can be found in QOTSA’s groovier work, and is pretty catchy as well.

Death Grips is releasing jenny death, the second half of The Powers That B tomorrow, and it is certainly a different animal from the first half that was shared last year.  Check out the GoPro-type video for the bone-rattling “I Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States”, featuring footage from Zach’s drumstick and MC Ride’s mic.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead shared the video for “Lie Without A Liar” from their recent album IX, depicting a fantastical suburban child warrior.  Or something.

Ad-Rock, subject of a recent GQ profile that we linked to on Friday, stopped by The Tonight Show to discuss his recent movie role as well as his poor appearance.

Elsewhere on the late night circuit, Modest Mouse became the first band to perform on the newest incarnation of The Late Late Show, now hosted by James Corden, where they performed “Be Brave” from Strangers to Ourselves.

Stereogum has a helpful guide to getting all your “beach” bands straight, which is probably worthy of consultation as the weather gets nicer.  I wonder if they had similar guides when “Deer” and “Wolf” bands were popular.

And finally, enjoy the contributions of this musical dog to some well-known rock songs.  It’s the perfect thing to help kickstart your week.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 23 Edition)

Some news, new music, and new videos as you get over your post-SXSW hangover…

Modest Mouse stopped by CBS News on Saturday morning to perform songs from their latest album Strangers to Ourselves, with frontman Isaac Brock also sitting down for a quick interview to go over what happened in the time since the release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.  Though many sites have posted videos of a couple of the songs they performed, the band’s Facebook post has links to all three performance videos and the interview.  The band also released the official video for the single “Lampshades on Fire”, featuring a lot of jump-cuts and one crazy party.

Though “Lampshades” was the first single released from the album, it strangely is the second video, as the video for the ballad “Coyotes” was previously released.

Blur shared another track from their upcoming Magic Whip, and “Lonesome Street” should please fans with fond memories of the band’s Parklife era.  Of course, Blur’s albums are fairly diverse affairs, and the singles released by the band so far proves that Magic Whip will be no different in this regard.

Built To Spill has released another song from Untethered Moon, the sweet and poppy “Never Be The Same”; it is available instantly along with the previously released jam “Living Zoo” when you pre-order the album now, which is available on vinyl for Record Store Day this year and on disc on April 21st.

Action Bronson is releasing his major-label debut this week, and right now Mr. Wonderful is available for streaming, if that is your preferred method of consumption.  This brief interview Bronson did with GQ should convince you to check it out.

Speaking of streams, a couple of major albums that will be released next week can now be streamed, with Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi available on NPR and Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell available at multiple sites.

Finally, enjoy this video from last week’s South by Southwest of comedian Hannibal Buress sitting behind the kit for Speedy Ortiz in a terrible, terrible performance of “MKVI”.

Over the Weekend (Mar. 9 Edition)

News, new music, and videos as you adjust to daylight at strange hours this week…

We had been passing along scraps of news and filtering through rumors for months, even relying on shaky fan-shot videos, but we finally have new music from My Morning Jacket.  Last week, the band released the joyous “Big Decisions” from their upcoming album The Waterfall, which is set to hit stores in early May and is the first of two planned releases from these recording sessions.

We probably could have fit the MMJ news into last week’s post, but we have no excuse for neglecting to share Built To Spill’s new song.  The multi-part guitar-centric “Living Zoo” from the upcoming Untethered Moon sounds like classic Built To Spill, which is undeniably a good thing.

The biggest news of the weekend however was probably the announcement of the release date for Kendrick Lamar’s follow-up to the brilliant good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and luckily it is only two short weeks away.

Our regular readers know how difficult it is to pass up on any Spoon news, so they shouldn’t be surprised that we’re linking to their performance from “The Takeaway Show”.  It is definitely worth watching this unique, intimate performance as Britt presents stripped-down versions of “Inside Out” and “I Just Don’t Understand”.

If there was any song that required a thirty-minute analysis of its musical structure, it’s probably “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.  Luckily, a video of such analysis exists.  There are probably worse ways to kill half an hour, but then again, the very fact that we mentioned the song means you’ll have it stuck in your head for at least that long anyway, so you should probably learn the reason why.  After the lesson, treat yourself to the “literal version” of the video.

Most cat owners are aware that their feline companions do not particularly care for music, and probably chalked up the reason as to the fickle nature of the cat.  However, The Atlantic has alerted its readers to some important research that has taken place that has determined that it is in fact possible for cats to enjoy music.  They just don’t like most human music.

And finally, enjoy the latest track from M.I.A.–after initially informing fans that she would release “All My People”, she switched gears and offered the groovy, mid-tempo “CanSeeCanDo” instead, a song that fans of Matangi should appreciate.

Built to Spill, Live at the Crystal Ballroom

In some ways, Built to Spill is an odd choice to be a part of a festival put on by a beer company.  A Built to Spill show is not intended for the casual music fan who’s out on the town looking for a fun night out with the music as mere background to other items on the agenda. The band’s focus is not on spectacle, but on recreating dense, complex works of Guitar As Art for a devoted and appreciative audience in as professional a manner as possible.  Even fans can find themselves lost as the group delves deep into an extensive catalog of originals and various covers.  In other words, there would be no shilling for corporate sponsors, or mentions of alcoholic beverages; Doug Martsch would punctuate a song with a simple “Thanks”.

Though technically a part of the Project Pabst festivities, it is best to think of Saturday night’s show as a stand-alone gig–the chance to see one of the great indie rock bands for over two decades in a locale that while not home, is close to it, for the low price of only $25.  As weekend entertainment options go, it was probably the best bang you could get for your buck, and that’s before taking into account the quality of the actual performance.  With a setlist that danced all around their extensive career and a lineup in which the new parts are now seemingly fully assimilated, the band ended up performing their finest show that I’ve seen in years.

Doug Martsch and co. remembering to carry the zero

Doug Martsch and co. remembering to carry the zero

It’s not a bad idea to start things off with one of the greatest album openers of all-time, and the band obliged with a furious rendition of You In Reverse‘s epic “Goin’ Against Your Mind” in all its solo-filled glory.  The band then dipped into the early years with two cuts from There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, “In the Morning” and “Stab”.  A riveting performance of “Liar” followed, complete with the trademark Doug Martsch head-swivel, as well as a rousing version of “Sidewalk” which got the crowd bouncing.

The middle of the set featured my first encounter with “They Got Away”, a reggae-inspired song that the band had released a few years back on a single that I didn’t even know existed; I had been anticipating new material as the group had been working on a follow-up to There Is No Enemy for some time, but instead I had to settle for a song that ended up being just “new-to-me”.  Speaking of that album, a personal highlight was the gorgeous ballad “Life’s a Dream”, whose climax really sizzled live.  I’m still hoping to catch a live performance of the devastating “Things Fall Apart”, though.

Built to Spill jamming with the opener's cover of "Psycho Killer"

Built to Spill jamming with the opener’s cover of “Psycho Killer”

The last time I caught Built to Spill it was at an intimate show at the Doug Fir where the group was incorporating a new drummer and bass player.  The guitarists were all predictably great, but the rhythm section was hesitant and looked rather bored; part of this could be attributed to a setlist that consisted of seemingly easier songs so as to gradually incorporate the new members.  However, there was no such caution with the material at Saturday’s show, and the two new guys sounded as if they had been a part of the group for years.

The show ended with slow-building classics “I Would Hurt A Fly” and “Time Trap”, and though we were warned the latter would be the last song of the evening, we were thrilled when it unexpectedly merged into old favorite “Car”.  It had been nearly a decade since I saw that song live, and goddamn did it feel good to hear it again.  That said, hopefully it won’t be another decade before I see it again.

Covered: “Cortez the Killer”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Zuma is one of my favorite Neil Young albums, but there is one track that stands out clearly from the rest and is the major reason why most people have this record in their collections: “Cortez the Killer”.  Even my mother, who is only a casual music fan and not really familiar with Young’s work, was compelled to remark about the song when she heard it for the first time, saying “that was beautiful.”  The song is known for its epic guitar solos, but unlike the vast majority of songs with the same claim, the tempo never gets above an ambling pace.  For over seven minutes, the audience is enraptured by gorgeous guitar lines that snake and wrap around the listener’s ears.  It’s an amazing feat.

Over the years, a lot of people who enjoy proving how smart they are, have taken aim at the lyrics and dismissed the song because of the historical inaccuracies.  True, to say “and war was never known” about the Aztecs, out of all the indigenous peoples of the Americas, is pretty ridiculous.  However, the song came out at a time when historians were beginning to teach a revised version of the interaction between European settlers and Native Americans, and if Neil Young swung the narrative too far in the other direction, it’s understandable.  However, consider that just saying “Cortez, Cortez…what a killer” was enough to apparently get this song banned in Spain during the 70’s, and that part was true.  In the end, I’d just say to those critics to get over themselves and enjoy the true beauty of the song, and let the guitars wash over you.

You know how I mentioned above how it was “an amazing feat” for Neil Young and Crazy Horse to keep the listener’s attention for over seven minutes simply by the beauty of the guitar solos?  Think how impressive it would be to do the same thing, except for twenty minutes.  That’s what Built to Spill was able to accomplish, as recorded on their Live album.

Over the years, Built to Spill has been known to play several covers and do an outstanding job on each of them, ranging from classic rock staple “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”.  I remember seeing a particularly impressive version of The Smith’s “How Soon Is Now?”, with the band able to perfectly nail that distinctive effect for the guitar.  But there may not have been a finer cover than their version of “Cortez”, which still amazes me to this day.  Doug Martsch is a fair match for Neil Young’s distinctive whine, and that’s without even an attempt at imitation; Martsch’s vocals also carry an additional fragility or vulnerability, which helps bring out the beauty of the song even more.

The astonishing thing about their cover is that at no point when listening does it ever feel like “this is a twenty minute song”; it sounds like it takes roughly around the same time as the original, even when you’re listening to several rounds of solos at the end.  And man, those solos…each separate round is able to offer new variations on the well-known melody without sounding repetitive, and able to galvanize the listener without showboating or grandstanding.  The solos keep building and building, and then reach a glorious climax, before slowly receding into the ether, because you have to take some time to calm yourself after witnessing such beauty.  It’s also way tougher to do than just fading out like the original did, though to be fair, that was apparently due to a lack of tape.

The point is, if you have nothing to do for the next half hour, listen to these two versions.  You can thank me later.