Keep It Like a Secret

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Keep It Like a Secret
Keep It Like a Secret.jpg
Studio album by Built to Spill
Released February 2, 1999
Recorded Nov 1997; Apr-May 1998
Genre Indie rock
Length 46:53
Label Up Records/Warner Bros. Records
Producer Phil Ek and Doug Martsch
Built to Spill chronology
Perfect from Now On
(1997)
Keep It Like a Secret
(1999)
Ancient Melodies of the Future
(2001)

Keep It Like a Secret is the fourth full-length album released by indie rock band Built to Spill, and their second for Warner Bros. Records. The original tracks for the album were recorded on Nov 1997 at Bear Creek studios in Woodinville, Washington by Phil Ek, with overdubs recorded on mid 1998 at Avast! Recording Co. in Seattle, Washington.[1] Keep It Like a Secret was released on February 2, 1999. The album spawned two EPs: Carry the Zero and Center of the Universe. Pitchfork ranked the album at #41 on their "Top Albums of the 90s" list (1999).[2]

Album Notes[edit]

After feeling burned out from constructing the lengthy songs on his previous album, Perfect from Now On, Doug Martsch made a conscious decision to write shorter, more concise songs for Keep It Like a Secret.[3] Many of the songs on the album originated from a week's worth of band jam sessions in Boise.[4] During these marathon jam sessions, which could last up to five hours at a time, Martsch used a foot pedal that triggered a tape machine to begin recording. He would later comb through the hours of recorded music and find parts that he liked, methodically building them into songs.[5]

The song "You Were Right", which features a collage of now-cliche lyrics from songs by The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix (among others), almost didn't make the album due to perceived copyright issues. At the last minute, Warner Bros. Records secured permission for the band to use the lyrics.[6] In a 1999 interview with The Onion, Martsch described how he wrote the song: "...I came up with the chorus, 'You were wrong when you said, 'Everything's gonna be all right,' and then I decided the verse would be, 'You were right when you said...' something more pessimistic. And then I knew immediately that it was going to be a bunch of clichés, and I decided to use other people's clichés." [7]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 79/100[8]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[9]
The Austin Chronicle 5/5 stars[10]
Christgau's Consumer Guide (2-star Honorable Mention)[11]
Entertainment Weekly B[12]
Melody Maker 4/5 stars[13]
NME 7/10[14]
Pitchfork Media 9.3/10[15]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[17]
Spin 9/10[18]

Keep It Like a Secret received mostly positive reviews when it first came out. On Metacritic, the album has a score of 79 out of 100, indicating "generally positive reviews."[8]

Pitchfork Media's Jason Josephes praised the album, writing "at the risk of hopping on a cliché wagon, I think I'm gonna tell all my friends about Built to Spill."[15] In another positive review, Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Keep It Like a Secret "the most immediate and, yes, accessible Built to Spill record," writing that the band "embraced the sounds of a big studio and focused their sound without sacrificing their fractured indie rock aesthetic."[9] Kim Stitzel of MTV called the album "a great (and different) Built to Spill record, proudly displaying its strengths and reveling in its uniqueness even while making concessions to a changing world. "[19] Christopher Hess of The Austin Chronicle gave the album a perfect score, writing that Doug Martsch's "guitar vocabulary [..] gives 'Center of the Universe' an intrinsically bright tone, and infuses 'Else' with stunning beauty," while praising Scott Plouf's drumming as being "spot on throughout, providing active punctuation for the multiple layers of guitar."[10] Spin's Will Hermes also praised Martsch's guitar playing, writing that "Martsch is still [..] making the most beautiful baroque electric guitar murals in modern rock.[18]

Not all contemporary reviews were positive. Trouser Press called Keep It Like a Secret "pure BTS, but without enough sparkle or rough-hewn beauty to be memorable."[20] In another mixed review, Q Magazine wrote, "Built To Spill sound as if they're trying too hard, and ultimately both The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev do this sort of thing with far more panache."[8]

Legacy[edit]

Pitchfork ranked the album at #41 on their "Top Albums of the 90s" list (1999).[2] In a retrospective review published in 2013, Kevin McFarland of The A.V. Club called the album "perhaps the best encapsulation of the band’s oeuvre and the ever-simmering public response in a single phrase."[21]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Built to Spill except "Broken Chairs," which includes lyrics by the poet Uhuru Black.

  1. "The Plan" – 3:29
  2. "Center of the Universe" – 2:43
  3. "Carry the Zero" – 5:44
  4. "Sidewalk" – 3:51
  5. "Bad Light" – 3:22
  6. "Time Trap" – 5:22
  7. "Else" – 4:09
  8. "You Were Right" – 4:45
  9. "Temporarily Blind" – 4:48
  10. "Broken Chairs" – 8:40

Extra song on vinyl only: "Forget Remember When"

Personnel[edit]

Musicians[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

Production[edit]

  • Phil Ek - producer, engineer
  • Steve Fallone - mastering
  • Zack Reinig - engineer assistant
  • Scott Norton, Juan Garcia - mixing assistant
  • Jeff Smith - photography
  • Tae Won Yu - design, art direction

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret at Discogs". Warner Bros. Records, Discogs. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Top 100 Albums of the 90s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2016-09-23. 
  3. ^ Peisner, David (1999-04-28). "Built to Spill - Interview - The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  4. ^ Maffeo, Lois (1999). "Built to Spill: Secret Stars". CMJ New Music Monthly. College Media, Inc. (March 1999): 22. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  5. ^ "Elements of a Song - In the Studio with Built to Spill". Emplive.org. 2006-05-28. Archived from the original on May 28, 2006. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  6. ^ Maffeo, Lois (1999). "Built to Spill: Secret Stars". CMJ New Music Monthly. College Media, Inc. (March 1999): 22. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  7. ^ Peisner, David (1999-04-28). "Built to Spill - Interview - The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2015-06-20. 
  8. ^ a b c "Reviews for Keep It Like a Secret by Built to Spill". Metacritic. Retrieved 2016-09-22. 
  9. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Keep It Like a Secret – Built to Spill". AllMusic. Retrieved April 22, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Hess, Christopher (March 19, 1999). "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret (Warner Bros.)". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved June 17, 2011. 
  12. ^ Lanham, Tom (March 5, 1999). "Keep It Like a Secret". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 22, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret". Melody Maker: 47. May 16, 2000. 
  14. ^ Martin, Piers (January 28, 1999). "Built To Spill – Keep It Like A Secret". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved April 22, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Josephes, Jason (February 23, 1999). "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 22, 2016. 
  16. ^ Fricke, David (January 26, 2003). "Keep It Like A Secret". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  17. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 118–19. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  18. ^ a b Hermes, Will (March 1999). "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret". Spin. 15 (3): 140. Retrieved April 22, 2016. 
  19. ^ Stitzel, Kim (February 23, 2001). "Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret". MTV. Retrieved September 22, 2016. 
  20. ^ Strauss, Neil. "Built to Spill". Trouser Press. Retrieved September 22, 2016. 
  21. ^ MacFarland, Kevin. Built To Spill’s Keep It Like A Secret is the sound of harmony between extremes. The AV Club. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2016.