To celebrate the release of No Coast we will be running a different piece on emo greats Braid every day this week. For Day Five: our list of five albums that continue the “Braid Aesthetic.”
FEATURE: Five Albums That Continue the Braid Aesthetic
by Chad Jewett
1.) Bear vs. Shark – Right Now, You’re In The Best of Hands… (2003)
In reality, you could throw a dart at a list of post-1999 emo bands and hit an album influenced by Braid. The Champaign-Urbana post-hardcore quartet was (and are) expansive and inventive enough to be on a Mt. Rushmore with Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu or The Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring, and was perhaps most influential for finding such compelling middle-ground between those two aesthetics. Bear vs. Shark, a short-lived but remarkably consistent five-piece from Michigan thrived on precisely that mix of pop instincts and modernist hardcore creativity. The band’s debut album, the ponderously titled Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands. And If Something Isn’t Quite Right, Your Doctor Will Know in a Hurry reflected more than passing familiarity with the start-stop punk athleticism of Braid, especially on songs like “Ma Jolie” that could range from hushed conversation to clean jogs to absolute explosions in the blink of an eye.
2.) Moneen – Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now? (2003)
The most cerebral and intrepidly experimental of a generation of Vagrant bands who grew up with The Age of Octeen and Frame & Canvas, few bands metabolized the precision and angular melodicism of Braid quite like Ontario’s Moneen (stylized as .moneen.). Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?, released in 2003, was actually somewhat similar to the work of Hey Mercedes, the post-Braid project of Bob Nanna, Todd Bell, and Damon Atkinson, which was also signed to Vagrant at the time. Like Hey Mercedes, Moneen expanded the luminous, ever-shifting songcraft of Braid to epic lengths (check out the six minute “Closing My Eyes Won’t Help Me Leave” for a starting example), underlining the prog-pop undertones that occasionally showed up on Frame & Canvas.
3.) CSTVT – The Echo and the Light (2010)
Along with Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader, Chicago’s CSTVT (or Castavet) were largely responsible for today’s emo renaissance, infusing a worn-out genre with some of the idiosyncratic creativity that made the movement so essential in the mid 1990s. But unlike Snowing and Algernon, who were more taken with the clean, sugary bursts of Cap’n Jazz or the autumnal sparkle of American Football, CSTVT took at least partial inspiration from the more sinewy, dense work of Braid. Not only does “Narrow Hallways” sound like it should be a Braid song, its sense of range, drama, and dynamics brings to mind the similarly hilly, winding Age of Octeen. Elsewhere, on “Model Trains” the band’s ability to intersect churning pop-punk with nimble indie algebra evokes the sort of flexibility that Braid made a calling card almost twenty (!) years ago.
4.) Pswingset – All Our False Starts (2012)
If Braid’s most recognizable imprints usually come in the form of 180-degree shifts, quiet/loud swings, and pop melodies carved into odd time signatures, then All Our False Starts, the 2012 full-length from Austin, Texas (via Akron, Ohio), quartet Pswingset, frequently resembles the more spacious, mood-oriented moments of the Champaign-Urbana band’s discography. Pswingset’s facebook describes the band as “math-americana”, and while that may be slightly tongue-in-cheek, its both a perfect way to describe the earth-toned post-hardcore of Pswingset and the reedy quiet spans of Braid. Indeed, on songs like “Bokeh” and “Slowdance”, Pswingset offer constantly refracting, exactingly constructed compositions that nevertheless feel wholly organic. As on classics like “I Keep A Diary,” All Our False Starts showcases a remarkable ability to balance the comfortingly natural with the carefully composed.
5.) Two Knights – Shut Up (2014)
Perhaps more easily characterized as a band that sounds like a duet between Mike Kinsella at 15 and Mike Kinsella at 30, Denton, Texas duo Two Knights resemble Braid most in the way they put those two warring aesthetics together. Not only do Shut Up highlights like “Dear God, This Parachute is a Knapsack” and “Everything Will Kill You” manage the kind of stark left-turns that show up time and again across the diverse Movie Music Volumes 1 & 2 (think of the jarring mood-swings of “Sounds Like Violence”, for instance), but there’s an added consonance between the self-deprecating narratives and wry wordplay of singer-guitarist Parker Lawson and that of Bob Nanna (indeed, the fact that Two Knights beat Braid to a song title like “Clark Can’t” is legitimately surprising).