Braids – Native Speaker

Rating: ★★★ · ·

In this day and age of Attention Deficit Disorder musical consumption, there is something to be said about the first thirty seconds of any album. It’s supposed to be a slice of one of the best songs on the album, drawing people to listen to the rest. However, Braids don’t seem to think it is that important, or perhaps want dedicated listeners because they chose to leave the first thirty seconds of Native Speaker empty, save for some atmospheric sound – a sign of things to come.

A few more seconds pass and soft drums kick in and “Lemonade” gets moving, with the half whisper, half clear vocals of Raphaelle Standell-Preston propelling it onwards. It proves to be a simple, yet elegant song that echoes through the emission of heavy instrumentation. Then, they move to “Plath Heart,” in which the sweetness of Standell-Preston’s voice is shown. A trace of a yelp provides the perfect vocals to ride upon the calm and collected ripples of the song, which is the norm for the rest of the record. Another standout track comes later on with “Same Mum.” For a longer number, it holds the attention of the listener for all seven minutes and two seconds that it plays. The sharper clacking of drumsticks, and raised beat let the song move, as if an easily run marathon.

My biggest problem with Native Speaker as a whole is that it fades into the background all too easily. Something about the lack of variety, length of each song (some are over eight minutes) and amount of soft space allows this album to slip under the radar, instead of pulling me into their world of dreamy pop. Instead of packing a punch in this short album, Braids are as spacey as a band can get. They start with emptiness, end with emptiness and throw in some emptiness in the middle. If one were to listen to one track at a time, the lack of substance would be acceptable, as the songs themselves are not bad—contrariwise they are rather intriguing. With each additional listen, they grow on me, but I want more than small noises that fade when the song ends.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this album, but as it meanders its way to finish, I get a little bored. The band just doesn’t show much versatility or variety, and the long songs work against them in that they stretch the separation of each song so thin that it becomes transparent, and everything blends together. As far as music that will knock your socks off goes, this does not fall under that category. However, if you are looking for something calm and soothing, perhaps the perfect accompaniment to a rainy day, then by all means, this is your album.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Braids-Plath-Heart.mp3]

Download: Braids – Plath Heart [MP3]

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