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Sam Hockley-Smith
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Looking back, it’s actually difficult to capture just how weird and momentous the freak folk movement of the first half of the 2000s felt. It wasn’t cobbled together so much as it was a united front of weirdos that were obsessed with their own skewed vision of the past — AM radio gold sat comfortably next to fingerpicked guitar next to noise freakouts that could have been culled from a vintage Grateful Dead live bootleg. If the Halo Benders captured the tossed-off heaviness of easy living through neurosis, the freak folk scene was about honesty and the abandonment of the dilemmas of modern life. The Golden Apples of the Sun compilation is an essential window into a very weird, very sincere musical world.

Having spare time is important. That goes without saying. But considering none of us have it ever, maybe it’s worth saying again. Listening to the Halo Benders’ 1994 album God Don’t Make No Junk, the first album from the low-key side project of Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch and Beat Happening/K Record sounder Calvin Johnson, it feels like it could only be the product of spare time.

Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch released one solo album, Now You Know, in 2002. It’s not that different from a Built To Spill record — his soaring vocals are still present, that sort of abstract, knotty lyrical wisdom is still very much in the mix, as is some of the virtuoso guitar playing that is a Built To Spill staple, though in this case it leans acoustic and unadorned. This is, in some sense, Martsch’s personal record. It’s not meant to be a trailblazer, and freed from the pressures of Built To Spill, it’s a lot looser, a lot less focused, and there’s almost no density to it whatsoever.

Comments

 +2Posted on Aug 29th, 2013 | re: Backtrack: Built To Spill You In Reverse (13 comments)

Excellent point. Actually, every Built To Spill album features “bargain bin” art. I have no idea if this was intentional or not, but the collage stuff on Keep It Like A Secret just screams 99 cent bin in the best way possible.

 0Posted on Apr 11th, 2013 | re: Backtrack: Palace Music Viva Last Blues (5 comments)

You might be right! Lie Down in the Light just never grabbed me, as much as I tried (and I tried many times). I felt like he’d lost some of his adventurousness though the actual song construction was on par (if not better) than the earlier material that I love so much.

 0Posted on Mar 27th, 2013 | re: Backtrack: Ladyhawk Ladyhawk (9 comments)

@Brian Merlos: What are you talking about?