Braids – Native Speaker
I’ve been waiting for this album for so long, and I hadn’t heard of this band until today. It’s the kind of album that, on first listen, you think to yourself, “how can something be so familiar if I’ve never heard it before?” Or maybe I’m just weird. (sidenote – when I first read about this band, I was really angry that someone had the nerve to pluralize the name of one of the greatest emo bands of the 90’s. but honestly, this is so much better. my apologies to any muscular bearded guys in flannels reading this)
It’s really hard for me to pin this down in terms of genres. That’s okay, I hate doing that anyway. But as far as comparisons go, one keeps popping up in my head. Throughout the seven tracks, there are swells of atmospheric guitars soaked in delay that remind of me of Feels-era Animal Collective, specifically the spaced-out tracks. It has a similar mood to Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors, though stylistically is very different. They feel no pressure to spare any effect pedal use, sampling melodies, playing them in reverse (a total gimmick sometimes, but one I have no problem fawning over). The percussion is quite simple, as the style kind of demands. There’s so much going on everywhere else that it serves its purpose without giving you too much to pay attention to. And the vocals. Oh my god the vocals.
She would totally have a name like Raphaelle Standell-Preston. Her voice just glides over everything else in the mix, ranging everywhere between a celestial just-above-a-whisper to a spine-jolting Björkish yelp (see track 5 – Lammicken). Every member of the band sings in a chorus that surrounds Raphaelle’s, often going as far as to throw effects on vocals, making some really trippy sounds I haven’t heard from anyone else before.
Most of the tracks are rather long, some of them droning on one progression for a while. But it’s not a bad thing at all. Interlocking melodies slowly rise and fall in the mix, always keeping it interesting and experimental, switching emphasis between guitars, wordless vocal melodies and lyrics. The versatile guitarists switch between plunky arpeggios to electronic squeals, and I am in LOVE with the tone they settled on.
The fact that this is the band’s debut album astounds me in some ways and makes sense in others. It’s an amazing first display of their immense talent, but I see it more as what is to come from this impressive Canadian (of course. they’re always Canadian) four piece. You can tell they are still messing around and noodling at moments, yet that just attests to what sounds they’ll come up with when they are more confident. We’ll look back on this album in the future appreciating everything immature and developing about it, an amazing precursor for what’s up next.
Braids is playing with Baths and Star Slinger at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Feb. 11th. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW. $14, absurd processing fee included.