Published on January 25th, 2011 | by Ben Illsley
Braids – Native Speaker
Flemish Eye / Kanine Records
Usually, when you describe an album as ‚Äòunsafe’, it’s with some sort of ‚Äòit’s so-good-it’ll-make-your-face-melt’ clich√©. With Native Speaker, it’s because I find myself inclined to balance my laptop precariously over the edge of my bathtub, while I sink slowly beneath and mellow for as long as I can hold my breath. Braids ‚Äì this Albertan, chill-core four-piece ‚Äì might well be the death of me. But what a way to go, ‚Äòey.
Braids sound like the farm-grown younger siblings of Animal Collective, who’ve ditched the electronic edge for a much more pastoral feel, and with lyrics that are far more audible. Opener ‚ÄòLemonade‘ follows the same pile-then-peel layering pattern as most of Merriweather Post Pavilion, each new pitch and instrumental layer rising from the previous like bubbles boiling through water, though Raphaelle Standell-Preston vocals are more supple and a tad less reverb fuelled than Lennox’s. The song washes well, and leaves us less sceptical of follower ‚ÄòPlath Hearth‘, which is laid out more like ‚ÄòDisney musical number’ than art rock, but it’s pleasant nonetheless ‚Äì the swiping violins and vocal intonations giving clear allusions to Arcade Fire, particularly R√©gine Chassagne (Perhaps this is hometown Montreal having an effect on the recording process).
Undeniably, it’s Raphaelle’s vocals that hold the real vitality of Native Speaker, bounding effortlessly it seems between the fragility and naivety of a lost child (how on earth she managed this with the lyrics ‚ÄòI’m fucked up, fucked up, fucked up’ in ‚ÄòGlass Deers‘, I don’t know), to the unhinged sound of a mid-20s meltdown (‚ÄòLammicken‘). At times, such as in penultimate track ‚ÄòSame Mum‘, her vocals are so deeply accented and empowering that it holds almost ethnic qualities; the sound of the savannah per say, of open space and wide, bellowing fields of music (if we’re keeping to the Disney vibe, think ‚ÄòCircle of Life’).
The lasting image though, is so often embodied in the closing number ‚Äì and I’m thankful here for an instrumental. ‚ÄòLittle Hand‘ leaves us drifting on a rolling current of guitars and looping synths, which somehow defy cause and feel entirely natural, swaying like reeds on the riverbed; think not of this as the album’s close, but as it’s blossoming moment.
I don’t know, perhaps I’m revelling in this album a tad too much. I was in an utterly foul mood when I came to listen to it, but somehow Braids have managed to wash that whole bitter edge away. Ebbing and coursing, and swaying in its serenity ‚Äì like a poolside half-echo, sound so profoundly comforting, making for a very easy listen.
To call this mood music really doesn’t do it any justice at all, but needless to say, it’s cheered me right up.
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…