When the Wind Forgets Your Name

By: Brandon Kurtz

After seven years without an original release, Built to Spill is back with their new album When
the Wind Forgets Your Name. Their first release with historic Seattle label Sub Pop is the result
of fronting member Doug Martsch’s collaboration with Lê Almieda and João Casaes of Oruã, a
psychedelic, indie and jazz fusion band from Brazil. Almieda and Casaes assisted with the
recording of the songs, and after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the trio worked to
mix the album through sharing the tracks digitally. The Built to Spill of the 1990’s and 2000’s
still shines through the lineup changes and puts forth a new version of their sound through more
modern production techniques and styles than on previous releases. Coming in at just over 45
minutes, When the Wind Forgets Your Name serves as a great entry point for first time listeners,
while providing longtime Built to Spill fans a new take on the Built to Spill sound.
In an interview with The Current (89.3 FM Minneapolis), Martsch states that the album’s name
may be a play on the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” which asks, “Will the
wind ever remember // The names it has blown in the past?” These lines align emotionally with
lyrical themes throughout the album, as Martsch grapples with the uncertainty and helplessness
that comes with not being able to make sense of life and the world that surrounds and eventually
passes us all by.

Gonna Lose
The record opener, which begins with a cheerful, fuzzed out riff that punches itself through the
ears and into the minds of listeners. Martsch introduces the previously mentioned sentiment into
his own album by stating “Answers materialize then they’re gone // They were here, but the ones
like that // Disappear and they don’t come back.” As situations and contexts change through the
passing of time, things that people assume they have figured out can slip away from them or
leave them unsatisfied, and Martsch tells listeners that he is no exception.

Fool’s Gold
After starting on a high note, the album shifts to this spacious track in which Martsch compares
his previous assumptions about life and meaning in the universe to a false sense of security that
is now lost. On this song, the reverb that Martsch added to his vocals during the production
process becomes obvious, and gives them a soft, airy feeling throughout the rest of the album. As
a heavy tremolo effect fans out and creates a choppy feeling in the atmosphere of this song, the
guitarist and vocalist repeats melancholic musings such as “Don’t matter what they say // I’m
gonna break my heart someday” and “White noise let me sleep for a little while”, simultaneously
admitting he has realized that he was no closer to answering existential questions he has posed in
previous albums and seeking an escape from the uncomfortable feelings that have come along
with it. This song benefits from the lead guitar lines that are layered in about halfway through
and the synth that lifts the simple but emotional chord progression that crawls along its 4-minute

The album moves into an more folky direction with this jangly, upbeat track. Continuing with
the theme of not being able to make sense of life, Martsch sings “Lifes just understood,” which
seems to be more accepting of the sentiments expressed in the previous song. Later lines speak to
the stuck feeling many people can get when they aren’t sure what they truly want, such as the
final verse that says “You wanna move around and you wanna stay still // You wanna have a life
but not too real.”

On the first song on this record that seems to be about love, Martsch compares it to one of
nature’s most common traps. It is by far the happiest sounding instrumental on the album, which
is contrasted with a view on love that borders on pessimistic; Martsch asks “Who’s gonna waste
all your time?” The notes in the riff seem to pivot and bounce off one another, as if I was
skipping throughout the countless intersections of the web, trying to find a way back to the
ground. Combined with a tight but fast paced rhythm section, this is one of the best moments on
the record.

Alright & Never Alright
The second half of the album is rounded out by both “Never Alright” and “Alright.” This pair
continues the theme about relationships that is started in “Spiderweb.” “Alright” sounds like an
argument that has been building up for a long time, and portray a speaker who seems frustrated
with expectations they feel they cannot meet, shown by lyrics like “it’s never enough to get there
// it’s never enough for you,” before breaking into the hook that simply says “It’s never alright”
After “Never Alright” ends, the following tack shifts to a more positive note, where the speaker
reconciles with their partner and encourages them to take more chances for themselves backed a
spacious arrangement that includes an organ, guitars with both reverb and tremolo and more
fuzzy guitar leads.

If had to choose my least favorite thing about this album, it would probably be how long some of
the songs can feel when compared to others on the LP, even though there isn’t a drastic
difference in runtime than the rest. While these songs seem to drag at times, they helped by new
sonic elements being added in throughout the track such as organs and futuristic space sounds
(Elements), beautiful instrumental codas (Comes a Day), and even taking stylistic influence from
other genres such as reggae (Rocksteady). Though the songs can feel dragged out, Built to Spill
is no stranger to the long form, and it is still interesting to see them experiment with genres
outside their sonic comfort zone and to hear the instrument and sound choices the band made in
the production process.

Overall, I was impressed with the production and guitar work on When the Wind Forgets Your
Name. While some long-time fans may not think it lives up to records from Built to Spills past, I
think it is a nice addition to their discography: one that is perfect for walking around as the crisp
breeze gusts into this new season.

The Current interview