Loops and tonal washes set an ambient background, while the foreground vocals tend to avoid linear focus. Instead, the voices overlap and compete, offering different views. Some contribute only a primal sense. The title track, Native Speaker, follows this pattern. The intro is reflective with a lazy tidal feel. Under this surface, subtle sounds rise to grab your ear before sinking again. A single voice comes forward, but weaves in and out of other voices: a shimmery chorus, a childlike interjection, swirling whispers, glitchy stutters. The sonic mix reacts to each bit of lyric. While there's not quite a linear flow, there is a kind of consistency; it's a roiling subconscious melange that eventually resolves into acceptance. "It's fine."
Native Speaker has plenty of pop touches -- nice beats, Raphaelle Standell-Preston's strong vocals, shimmery synths and guitars -- but the structures are repetitive and experimental, ignoring verse-chorus structure. Between Standell-Preston's offbeat lyrical phrasing and their interesting use of backing vocals, BRAIDS focuses more strongly on vocals than any other part of their sound.
Plath Heart sets up a shimmery beat, but it's the galloping lyrics that grab:
There's no loving after all this crap that we've been throughThe musical fills in the background offer a counterpoint stagger rhythm to the vocals. In contrast to the ambient sound of Native Speaker, Plath Heart ticks along with a smug, poppy drive.
I'm not coming back to you.
Native Speaker is a good first album, showing off BRAIDS' quirky sensibilities. They've already gotten a lot of alt-press, but I'm more interested in seeing which direction BRAIDS will choose to explore next. In the meantime, I'm thinking mint Juleps are in order.