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Braids – Native Speaker January 3, 2011

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Braids

Album: Native Speaker

Release: Arbutus, 2011

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Feels-era Animal Collective, Blue Hawaii

I apologize in advance, but I can’t talk about this new beast of an album from upstart atmospheric pop group Braids without first mentioning the most sorely over-used reference point on this blog: the ever-relevant Animal Collective. We all know that one of the things that makes Animal Collective so good is its constant shape-shifting between albums, offering a fresh new sound with each subsequent release. But this aspect of the band’s progression comes with a down-side as well: those who particularly enjoy a specific sound of theirs end up clamoring for more of the same when the group has already moved on to exciting and different territories.

I know the feeling all too well, as I constantly finding myself wishing that I could hear more music like that found on earlier albums like Campfire Songs, Here Comes The Indian, and especially masterpiece Feels, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, since no other band can tap into that sound and Animal Collective won’t ever return to it, that wish will never be fulfilled.

And now here we are on the cusp of 2011, six years after the Collective threw us into the world of Feels and quickly snatched its sound away, and this band Braids picks up almost exactly where they left off. And it’s more than just some cheap imitation the likes of which we’ve seen over and over in recent years: Braids make some truly inspired music that takes what Animal Collective did with that sound and, to use a phrase often dropped on American Idol, makes it their own.

You’ll recognize that sound all over Native Speaker, from the overall extended and enveloping feeling of the tracks to the layers of explosive saccharine guitar, the build-up and breakdown into tribal drum patterns, and the softly cooing “ooh”s and “ahh”s backing Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s Avey Tare-like yelping, off-beat vocals. Like the tracks on Feels, the songs are dense in sound but feel lighter than a feather, alternating between propulsive rhythm sections and the occasional pause to wallow in a pool of ethereal sonic beauty. “Lemonade” makes just as powerful an opener as “Did You See The Words” did way back when, single “Plath Heart” parallels the playful energy of “Grass”, “Glass Deers” closely follows the build-up and release of “Banshee Beat”, and the eight-minute title track’s guitar lines and echoed ambiance sound an awful lot like the ambling and reverb-drenched ballad “Daffy Duck”.

Of course, there are enough differences between Native Speaker and Feels to make it seem refreshingly new. Raph’s voice (some of you may recognize it from side project Blue Hawaii from this past year) is emotionally charged and vastly appealing to the ears in a way that Avey’s never was and the band’s style of instrumentation is a step lower in complexity, which is a bit of a relief as it makes Native Speaker a more effortless listen. But the core elements are the same in both, and I applaud Braids for their ability to bring me back to the astonishing sound that I thought was lost and gone forever.

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1. One of the most artfully beautiful albums by Braids | PhotogMusic - January 17, 2011

[…] filled with artfully, beautiful and dream-like sound. Beginning with the catchy and vibrant “Lemonade” which feels like you are in the summer playing in a park while drinking Lemonade While […]

2. Revisiting Native Speaker & Polaris Music Prize 2011 Predictions | PhotogMusic - September 5, 2011

[…] filled with artfully, beautiful and dream-like sound. Beginning with the catchy and vibrant “Lemonade” which feels like you are in the summer playing in a park while drinking Lemonade While […]


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