Braid is one of those bands that I should really like. They're a staple of the late 90's/early 00's Chicago indie/emo scene. I like their mathy edge. I like their emo lyrics. I really like the guitar sound. I mean, I love a lot of bands from the same time and place, but somehow, Braid never inspired in me the passion that others feel for them. Now that they're back together, I thought I'd try out their new sound by buying this split with Balance & Composure.
The new Braid is a lot like the old Braid. They've smoothed out a lot like a fine whiskey after it has aged (is that how it works?) but the classic, unmistakeable Bob Nanna lilt still reminds me of Robert Smith as he starts words on the edge of falsetto. The guitar switches between a wonderful melody and an interesting slight dissonance during the choruses as the driving melodies takes us to cliff-like pauses in the bridge of Lux, their emo drinking song. "Let's get lit up. You don't really want to sit around and give up." floats over the dissonance and distortion and leaves this out of step emo kid wanting a bit more.
At first, I thought the second track Many Enemies was actually Balance & Composure and the tracks on the cover were labeled wrong. However, that signature guitar sound pierced my confusion about the vocals not sounding like Bob Nanna. Had he been singing, this might have been any track off of their seminal record Frame & Canvas with the tempo changes and layers of distortion under that soaring guitar melody. But whoever is singing isn't what I expected and it throws me off for this track.
Balance & Composure begin the B-side with a slice of U2 tremelo guitar intro and a lot of vocalists dueling. Okay, maybe just two vocalists doubling nearly every line, but still that's probably one too many. It sounds nice, though. It has that late 90's nasal emo vocals sound over a driving rhythmic and melodic soundtrack, like you should be listening to this in a vintage automobile while driving in the rain. The wipers don't quite work and the shadow of the raindrops on your face mask your real inner struggle. You really identify with the line "How'd I ever know that the secret is just waking up." Okay, I'll admit it, I like the end part where they repeat a minor change in that line a bunch, building the whole time and gently releasing the tension before the singer gets too ragged. I'm a sap, okay?
They follow up this emo build with a syncopated and arpeggiated melody humming under the overlapping vocals of two singer that sound exactly the same (or some heavy use of Pro Tools) as they squeeze the words out of the corners of their mouth, stretching them out to make sure you get the point of their metaphor and their torment. "I'm still where you left me." is a pretty and sad line. The excellent production actually takes a bit away from the passion here. The various layers seem too constructed rather than passionate. And then the abrupt end just comes out of nowhere.
Overall, this is a pretty good record. The Braid side has a solid first song for emo drinkers and Balance & Composure lay down two solidly created emo cuts. If you're into that sort of thing, this is the split for you.
A1: Lux Braid
A2: Many Enemies Braid
B1: You Can't Fix Me Balance & Composure
B2: Say Balance & Composure