Oddly enough, 2015 is a very appropriate year for a new album from the 90’s indie lo-fi group, Built to Spill. Modest Mouse, their northwestern indie contemporaries, recently released Strangers to Ourselves after an eight-year drought, while Death Cab for Cutie, the heavily Built to Spill influenced indie pop group, released Kintsugi last month. Unfortunately, both of those albums were extremely average, and further proved that these artist were past their prime.
So, it’s perfectly natural to be skeptical about Built to Spill’s Untethered Moon. But if there’s one thing Built to Spill should be commended for, it’s their consistency. While many remaining 90’s and early 00’s group have drastically changed their sound in an attempt to stay relevant, Built to Spill have only made minor tweaks, retaining the lo-fi characteristics that helped establish them as an indie staple.
Their consistency, however, acts as both their greatest asset and their greatest weakness. Untethered Moon is a fairly safe album, and while there are a few interesting tracks, Built to Spill rarely steps out of their comfort zone. Busy drums, cosmic vocals, and reverb soaked riffs are just as prominent on Untethered Moon as they were on previous albums like Perfect from Now On. Because of this, the album becomes too comparable with the band’s earlier albums, and enters into a contest it’s bound to lose. That being said, tracks like “Never Be the Same” and “So” are definitely worth a listen, and prove that Built to Spill can still do what they’ve been doing best for years.
Keeping all of this in mind, Untethered Moon is still an entertaining listen. Existing fans of Built to Spill should enjoy it, but newcomers are better off starting with the earlier albums. Untethered Moon does, however, prove that Built to Spill belongs on a short list of dated indie rock bands that are capable making interesting music today, at that alone is something to applaud them for.