Fri Feb 25 2011
Dreampop is a pretty specific style; Braids play an extremely dreamy form of pop music even if you can’t quite tag it.  There’s more of a persistent, liquid drone to it, and an edge you won’t find in dreampop, though it is frequently lilting and narcotic just like the latest Beach House album.  By the third track, “Glass Deers”, singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston starts getting nuts à la old-school Panda Bear, and the unsettling tendencies of the music underscore anything you might find soothing about it, but it is crazy infectious.

The Animal Collective comparisons don’t stop there, either; heck, if you’re not reminded of AC by the opening fade in of the album, where have you been the past couple of years?  As expected, the sampler-heavy psychedelic tribal pop revolution is on, and Standell-Preston goes so far as to mimic Panda’s vocal enunciation at times (“Lemonade”, “Native Speaker”), as well as the whole echo-drenched vocal tapestry technique.  Maybe that’s just the way she happens to sing, but it is striking, though by no means a deal-breaker.  She’s got a lot more in her arsenal, from subtle, folky tenderness all the way to balls-out Björkesque belting, and in every case, she is 100% effective.

As the album progresses, there are more and more novel sounds sprinkled about, drilled for maximum effect but never overshadowing the bare essence of the songs.  A dose of heavy guitar near the end of “Glass Deers” is especially effective.  “Lammicken” has some ominous quasi-industrial beats and noise bolstering it, somewhat reminiscent of Bat For Lashes.  Then things get happy right away with the uplifting “Same Mum”, featuring some warm video arcade melodies.  Part of the fun is that you never know where the band will go next.  Native Speaker is all over the map; even as smooth and patient as this roller coaster is, it’s still a thrill ride.

(Check out Braids' first video for the album, "Plath Heart", over at Pitchfork.)

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