Words About Music
Braid “No Coast”
Let’s face the facts: every amazing emo band that’s ever existed broke up at some point. Sunny Day Real Estate, Snowing, Midwest Pen Pals, Orchid, American Football, they all made a few songs together then called it quits. Braid is one of those bands, though they made much more than a few songs. By the time they’d broken up in 1999, Braid had recorded over 80 songs spread out on three full-length albums and a few EPs and retrospectives. Though they briefly reunited in 2004 for some shows, it would take a while for their cult to build. By then, people still associated the term “emo” with My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and other groups whose shirts and CDs you’d find in a Hot Topic. When they reconvened again in 2011, though, the time was right. Emo was seeing a resurgence in popularity, at least in the underground. The so-called “twinkle daddies” (I hate that term, too) were making self-deprecating lyrics, dark humor, and complicated instrumentation cool again. The 90s heroes were free to reunite to new audiences. And hey, why not record some new music, too?
While most of today’s emo reunions like Mineral and American Football are likely only going to do live gigs, some seemed to have new music in mind, too. Last year, Braid signed to famed emo label Topshelf Records, home of beloved acts like Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), Pianos Become the Teeth, Suis la Lune, The World is a Beautiful Place…, and fellow reuniters The Jazz June. The result of this reunion and signing is “No Coast,” Braid’s first studio album in 16 years, discounting their post-breakup compilation “Movie Music.” Surprisingly, “No Coast” is actually a pretty good record. This is the sort of thing you might expect to hear from them if they’d stayed together after 1998’s “Frame and Canvas.” It focuses less on specific emotions and more on scenarios and situations. Themes include togetherness, friendship, and a relationship’s decline. It’s fairly upbeat and enjoyable, the last thing one would maybe expect from a Topshelf release.
“No Coast” feels less like a reunion and more like a continuance, almost like the sixteen year album gap was closer to two or three years. It feels energetic and inspired, something you rarely hear from reunited acts. The drumming is superb, the guitar playing shifts and moves at a constant rate, and Bob Nanna’s vocals feel as youthful as ever. They say on their last song that “this is not a revolution,” but it certainly feels like one. Braid are taking on and conquering the contemporary emo scene as if they’re in their 20s. It’s quite refreshing to hear. It’s not too math-y or too depressing. It feels original, something that is difficult to accomplish in a genre that has spawned so many countless soundalike bands.
What the album has in likability, it sort of lacks in dynamics and risk-taking. “No Coast” is consistent and each song on here is enjoyable in one way or another. It could be Braid’s best album. But in the midst of the skilled lyricism, I can’t help but notice that the album is not quite as exciting as I’d like it to be. I’m almost worried that it’s forgettable. But I suppose that remains to be seen. It may not have the time-signature shifts and gang vocals that signify greatness to some, myself included, but it’s a reunion album that actually doesn’t suck, which is a feat in and of itself. “No Coast” is a great album by a great band, and that’s more than most of us ever expected from a band that had been broken up for so long. And hey, if we got a new Owls album and a short Cap’n Jazz reunion, maybe Kinsella will give us “American Football II.”
SCORE – 8.0
FAVORITE TRACKS – Bang, East End Hollows, No Coast, Damages!, Many Enemies, Lux, Do Yourself In, Climber New Entry, Light Crisis, This Is Not A Revolution