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BRAID

MOVIE MUSIC VOL. ONE AND TWO (POLYVINYL)

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To create truly intelligent rock music, music that pops out of speakers with a tenacity and a focus while playing with the frame in which it is placed, is a heroic feat indeed. Braid is one band capable of doing that. Taking hardcore, post-punk, pop, and a pinch of metal, Braid toured the country for six years playing its carefully handcrafted blend of the aforementioned influences for anyone who would listen. After calling it quits in late 1999, the band decided to assemble the grocery-cart's worth of compilation/7-inch tracks it had released into the digital form, and Movie Music is the result.

What may seem a bit self-indulgent to naysayers is actually well worth praise. Braid's sound is distinct and fresh (but will definitely be copped by more than a few bands in the next five to 10 years) while retaining a sense of familiarity. Put in chronological order, a great deal of the enjoyment of Movie Music is the opportunity to watch Braid grow from its origins, writing dense, tightly wired, hardcore-ish songs full of sweaty, desperate screams into a much more melodic state that still packs every bit of the original complicity into a much more composed package. Bob Nanna's vocals are the centerpiece of every song; from almost annoying head-cold congestion to a beautifully broken scream, the poetry of his lyrics sit atop a bed of stunning guitar interplay and an unpredictable but amazing rhythm section make for some shining moments of clarity and dim despair.

On songs such as "What a Wonderful Puzzle," Braid showcases its melodic jones alongside a tendency to completely fill a space with a winding guitar part. The jarring but soothing changes of "First Day Back" and "Forever Got Shorter" mixed with the intimate diary writings of Nanna's lyrics are enough to put a smile on your face but still wring your heart dry. Throw into the fray some amusing covers (Billy Joel, The Smiths, Pixies, and Burt Bacharach) and you've got a complete collection of diverse recordings of a sincere, genuine band that, if nothing else, stayed hungry, challenging itself to write the most expressive, complex songs it could. Movie Music is the fantastic result of endless hours spent in a cramped van on the highways of the U.S., playing in front of anyone who would listen. Cinematic indeed.

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