Both Built To Spill and the Afghan Whigs were scooped up in the 1990s' alt-rock gold rush and were gems in a music-industry reality that no longer exists. Because both bands were prescient, they rode the wave, and have harnessed the whitecaps to find that as time has gone on, we're starting to catch up to them both again.
Cincinnati's Afghan Whigs predicted the rise of bands like Portugal. The Man with a fusion of R&B and fuzz, an odd sound that catapulted them to a level of success frustrating for any garage band to fathom. (They broke up amicably in 2001 simply because they lived too far apart.) Inevitably, they reunited in 2011 (with a new line-up) and are now touring behind 2017's In Spades. The years have been kind to frontman Greg Dulli and his new crew, as the new album is a melodic and fuzzed-out sequence of songs that just clicks as it ups the intensity on heady, uncomfortable, and beautiful compositions about the delusions of romantic ideals.
Boise, Idaho's Built to Spill's journey since 1992 has had a similar revolving door, but as frontman Doug Martsch has always claimed from early on, he was always to be the only permanent member. Unconventional, sure, but given how much Marstch's guitar playing has evolved it's almost weird how consistently rewarding the shifting group has been to listen to across nearly 30 (!) years and eight albums. The new members who drift in undoubtedly have a stabilizing effect, although Martsch has said in interviews that the older he gets, the more directionless he feels in his music. This doesn't telegraph at all, and the ride from 1997's vast Perfect From Now On to 2015's Untethered Moon has been a swooning, slow-core, noisy pop thrill. Here's hoping they play something new as their journey, thankfully, continues. —David Wolinsky