Braids
Native Speaker


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
February 4th, 2011 | 107 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The only thing to do is love, and so I do.

There’s been some backlash to Native Speaker already, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. These open spaces, these syncopated drums, and these major chords, these goddamn major chords so effortlessly navigated by Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s ethereal voice positively soar together. I thought everyone at least kind of liked Bjork, right? I’m not denying that the influences on Braids are numerous and obvious, but it’s reductive to compare Native Speaker to its predecessors. While the earthy, simultaneously spacious and intimate vibe recalls both Feels and Vespertine, the elements Braids cull of both records are blended to create something nearly as singular. So why fight it? Standell-Preston reveals Native Speaker’s chief conceit at the beginning when she chants “All we really wanna do is love” ad nauseum, turning the hokey mantra into an infectious one. With the urge to deconstruct something this whole to the sum of its parts sufficiently resisted, Native Speaker can be an eye-closer, a record that implores night listening and high quality headphones- a setting where guards are down and Braids are allowed to captivate.

And they are deftly capable of captivating. The band’s mastery of negative space renders Native Speaker devastatingly effective when its producers resist the urge for immediacy. Braids work best when they go outside, drenching their songs in reverb and letting their guitar articulations remain imprecise. That the record falters at “Plath Heart” and “Same Mum” is a testament to Braids’ ability to create deep music in the abstract. The two songs mark the act’s foray into focused pop music, a form that limits their expression to one color tone instead of the vast, layered palette they conjure everywhere else. “Plath Heart” in particular registers as “cute indie” before it vanishes under “Glass Deers,” the misfire a result of cutting the reverb and most importantly confining Standell-Preston to a closed space. Native Speaker is this woman’s showcase. Her flirty hushed whispers invite us in only to powerfully set up the moments when she boasts her considerable pipes, moments such as “Lemonade,” “Lammicken,” and “Glass Deers,” all of which feature jaw dropping performances from Braids’ centerpiece. She is the band’s calling card and the record shines when it allows her to fly.

The aviation strand in this write-up is intentional: this record breathes, the flight metaphors appropriate because of the way this record negotiates the air around it to come out with something gorgeous. Standell-Preston uses the album’s expanses to take massive bites out of lyrics, particularly on “Native Speaker,” where her inflections recall choice contemporary nymphets Bjork and Karin Dreijer Andersson, aping their naivety but also their sexuality. For example, the title track rhymes “pinkest lips that kiss so nicely” with “…of having you inside me,” and keep an ear open for the few perfectly dropped F-bombs on the record. Standell-Preston isn’t without her darker corners, but behind music as pretty as she has she maintains her charming warmth, always from a distance but also, somehow, always intimate; it’s as though she is singing from far away, but only to you.

I want to emphasize how addictive this record can be because that is, ultimately, its appeal. Native Speaker’s conclusion returns it to its beginning, which isn’t to say the album is cyclical, but rather it enraptures to the point where it must be played again to revisit the crystallized moments you remember and the subtler, equally as beautiful ones you missed. “Lemonade” and “Glass Deers” are the initial listen’s clear standouts- “Lemonade” for its unbridled, irresistible joy and “Glass Deers” for those holy-shit parts, you’ll know the ones I’m talking about- while the album’s sprawling title track and “Lammicken” blossom on future ones. “All we really wanna do is love” being an infectious mantra for Native Speaker means more for us as listeners than it does in the context of the album. Because this album sticks so memorably, so unwaveringly brightly, it’s useless to resist it. The only thing to do is love, and so I do.



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user ratings (120)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Andrew Kaster (2.5)
Though the foggy breathed soundscapes of "Native Speaker" are quite beautiful, the listening experie...


Comments:Add a Comment 
AggravatedYeti
February 4th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yay!

Ponton
Emeritus
February 4th 2011


5804 Comments


good to see you get this out, enjoyed reading

DoubtGin
February 4th 2011


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

great review

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bnm'd yesssssssssss

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15052 Comments


very good review

curiosity: what is your opinion on vespertine? never really thought that record got enough love

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really liking it, I got it after your review and after listening to this

Spare
February 4th 2011


5313 Comments


saw this around some places. vespertine comparison definitely makes me want to get it. plus the cover art is shiny.

conradtao
Emeritus
February 4th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, Adam.

This is quite a bit more extroverted than Vespertine, if you ask me.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15052 Comments


the title track is what earns the comparison for me.

"lammicken" too, sorta

kanecooper
February 4th 2011


630 Comments


hey downer !





klap
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


10499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

sounds like animal collective and downer likes it??! No fucking way

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
February 4th 2011


3773 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another 2011 album whose album art is sick. It's a pretty year.

Digging: The Flaming Lips - With A Little Help From My Fwends

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2011


23909 Comments


yay! I'm so excited for this record I'm glad it got the Downer Seal of Approval

Digging: RATKING - So It Goes

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 4th 2011


23909 Comments


woah nvm I totally thought this was Braid, the emo band. the rec'd by reviewer section has me
intrigued though.....

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sounds like animal collective and downer likes it??! No fucking way


its the most predictable thing since the staff 2010 list

Xenophanes
Emeritus
February 4th 2011


10614 Comments


The vespertine tag has me intrigued.....

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

Enotron
February 4th 2011


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

braid the emo band is sososososo much better

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15052 Comments


a 2 man


a 2


really

8(

Xenophanes
Emeritus
February 4th 2011


10614 Comments


I love Bjork, and am okay with Animal Collective. Would I like this?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 4th 2011


15052 Comments


yeah def

i mean just lsiten anyways cuz its awesome



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