Braids - Native Speaker

Kanine, 2011

It seems kind of trite to reduce the Canadian band Braids’ debut album down to “Animal Collective with female vocals”, but damn if you can’t hear AC’s slushy sound effects and Avey Tare’s hyper shriek at the beginning of the album on “Lemonade”. Even more is Tare’s influence prevalent on the proceeding cut, “Plath Heart”, on the jagged rhythms and lyrical experimentation mixed with the semblance of a pop song, or at least the shreds of one floating above the nagging backdropped chords.

This is not to say Braids fails at a good, or at least fulfilling, record; it’s a softer, less noisy brand of scatter-pop and there’s no harm in emulating one of the more unique bands of the last decade that hasn’t really been able to find their own specific genre peg amongst the music bloggers. The styling is where the comparisons should stop, and Braids uses a much more standard band lineup to produce their sound. Even on the longer headtrippers like “Glass Deers” and the title track, Braids hold a guitar, keyboards and drums set without a lot of extra bells and whistles.

Like other art records, Native Speaker opens up after several spins, and most of its enjoyment is taken from compounded listens. Braids does a good job of leading the listener through minimal textures while slowly adding layers, and the more it becomes familiar, the more the sounds and melodies seem to expand. The album also seems to move its focus from melody to texture and back again several times before it’s over. For a lesser band, this may be an indication of poor quality, but Braids feels too organized to be making so many mistakes; every note and instrument seems to have a place, regardless of how it changes the feeling, and sometimes quality, of the record.

The band is at its best on the long churners, particularly the middle of the record. “Glass Deers” moves along steadily for eight minutes, rarely diverting from it’s main theme while piling on different embellishments like falling snowflakes; and the title track doesn’t even bother with a hook or chorus, it slowly inches along a path of organic-type soundscapes and random musical bursts which seem underwhelming at first but by the end are gorgeous and addictive.

It’s a sound that feels far more mature than a debut album should normally be, but too incomplete to be another prodigy band. But an important first record, none the less, and bound to show up at the end of year. Despite lacking in some areas, it’s difficult to construct spaced-out pop without being self-serving or boring, and Braids has those points figured out.