by Jennifer Graciano
The albums most impressive tracks: “Lemonade,” “Glass Deers,” “Lammicken,” and the title track, all have the same lengthy introduction that seem to go on forever. Lemonade trickles into your ears as barely audible garbled noise. It quickly swells into an elegant piece with echoing vocals and a completely engrossing melody. You’ll barely notice the curse words Raphaelle Standell-Preston belts out as her singing is eerily beautiful; even the most crass lyrics appear to be quite innocent.
“Glass Deers” opens up with Katie Lee on keys playing a continuous set that practically lulls you to sleep. The dream ends quickly as Standell-Preston trades in her charming singing for some stifled shrieks. Structure of the song changes as the swooping sounds which gradually built-up are abandoned; the delicate sounds gone. Eventually the music mirrors the vocals as they are muffled by loud drums and some truly splendid chords.“Lammicken” pulsates as Lee, Taylor Smith, and Austin Tufts all add vocals in the forms of “Oooh’s" and "Ahh’s" to support Standell-Preston’s repeated lyric. Up until the three minute mark, the only real thing that changes is the force behind the vocals. Luckily, some general fuzz and static is added to break up the dreariness, making the track more a lot more ominous.
The title track, “Native Speaker,” continues the laid-back ambiance of the previous songs as it proves to be an excellent listen filled with sporadic crescendos. It’s tough not to think of Animal Collective listening to this one; the electronic bits that gurgle through the vocals, the layered unintelligible dense noise is so much like Animal Collective’s work.
“Plath Heart,” while not terrible, was my least favorite on the album. It might have been the ever-changing pitch which I found to leave the vocals teetering between playful and downright annoying. Drumming is excellent once again and as a whole sounds only slightly different than the more relaxed “Little Hand,” the instrumental closer to the album. Like “Plath Heart,” “Same Mum” incorporates those awkward vocals from Standell-Preston, only one hundred times more tolerable as they weave in and out of Smith’s chords (as well as her own,) Lee’s keyboard, and Tufts’ drums.
As a whole, “Native Speaker” lived up to the hype. While repetitive at times, it’s a great listen. A well-crafted experimental pop album that shows Braids are here to stay. The peculiar dynamic of the group only adds to the charm as you realize there isn’t one aspect, or one member of the group that is more important than the other. A symbiotic relationship which allows each member to shine and add greatness the groups technique.