Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums

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Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums
6. Braids Native Speaker (Flemish Eye)
This art-driven foursome of Calgary to Montreal transplants made major waves with the release of their stunning debut this year. Braids create a sort of dream-like haze that refracts tribal sensibilities through contemporary musical means; meditative repetition based around vocal melodies with tom-heavy syncopated drumming, awash in gently whirring echoes, bouncing loops, soft fuzzy synth pads, twinkling keys and deliberate crystalline guitar picking. It's a fascinating and viscerally gripping sound as aptly described by the hypnagogic pop tag as obvious influences Animal Collective. As comfortable sculpting sound as they are arranging instrumentation ― the warped, ethereal harmonies and rhythmic delay loop tweaking of the title track is an excellent example ― the young Taylor Smith, Katie Lee, Austin Tufts and Raphaelle Standell-Preston come from a generation surrounded by such a rich history of diverse sounds that there are no limits to what can be put into the service of the ever-evolving notion of what pop music can be. Powerful vocal melodies are always in the driver's seat, even when songs like "Lammicken" rely on few other traditional dressings, or "Lemonade" takes extensive instrumental detours. Like all great and vital pop music, Braids perform musical alchemy with Native Speaker, combining influences from a history of sonic amalgamation to create new traditions in popular sound.
Scott A. Gray

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