Like many of you, my considerable passion for music started humble and manageable. I played the saxophone and enjoyed listening to music. I didn't play well mind you, but well enough for my High School Jazz Ensemble and listening to music was a way to relax. I entered my freshman year as an inexperienced music lover with a thirst for knowledge and the desire to improve my playing abilities. Naïve and armed only with an open mind and serviceable chops, I looked forward to my first class with a new teacher and classmates. Whose music would we tackle first? Thankfully the answer came to us on our first day. Dizzy Gillespie's cheerful "Salt Peanuts."
A few weeks later and well into Jazz rehearsal, the collective lack of progress of "Salt Peanuts" provoked an enthusiastic "you insipid maladroit!" response from our defeated band director. With malice on his mind, our teacher decided he should not suffer alone and set forth to record what he probably thought sounded like rock bottom. I was in awe. Not by the cacophony that resembled a mangled and disfigured Gillespie standard, but by the fidelity his stereo rendered the disaster.
After our revelatory rehearsal, I realized the mini-shelf system I shared with my younger brother was not going to suffice. I wanted my own stereo. With an eye on the prize and hundreds of lawns mowed, I purchased my first (of many) components. I was the envy of none of my friends. That didn't matter to me. An itch had been scratched. Now, listening to music was clearer, more enjoyable and with new focus I could even hear spaces between the notes and instruments. I craved something new, something different, a new fix and more of it. And thus began my exploration for new music.
Searching for new music quickly became less a hobby and more a vocation I would later learn. At first I was unpredictable and had little method to my madness. It would take years to develop and sharpen my palette. I stuck to the genres I adored but now I was willing to push those same genres to their respective boundaries. I especially enjoyed innovation and craved challenging music. Music that demanded several listens and commanded (or better yet, deserved) the attention from their listeners was always my first choice to listen to. It's a great way to live.
And now I get to write about it.
The first album from Montreal quartet Braids Native Speaker offers many glimpses into modern sound-scapes. It's dreamy and plentiful textures resembles little by way of comparisons to contemporary popular acts sans Animal Collective and Gang Gang Dance. Made up of drums, keyboards, guitar, and of course vocals "Local Native" embodies a sound that offers loops and recapitulate phrasing reminiscent of Phillip Glass orchestration.
Beginning with the first track Lemonade, Native Speaker themes are based in suburbia and hints at a realization that not only is it boring but predictable. Lyrics like "what I've found is that we're just sleeping around" describe youth longing for something more but only getting what's available. The music builds like tract homes in a new development. A site is picked, foundations are poured and bricks are laid. In this case the music starts with distorted ambience and introduces rhythm before lyrics finishing with a rhythmic counter point of "all we want to do is love."
Fans of dystopian fiction will feel right at home with the remaining six tracks of Native Speaker. Plath Heart groans about pushing out babies and proclaims gold jewelry bought the child. Braids are clearly wrestling with their native surroundings and it makes for compelling music.
For a debut Braids Native Speaker has lots to offer. The music is labyrinthine and somehow remains pop giving the listener enough intelligence and passion to warrant the many accolades it deserves.