No Coast

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Along with the Promise Ring, Cap'n Jazz, Christie Front Drive, and others, Braid were prominent in the crop of mid- to late-'90s Midwestern emo bands, blending angular guitar work and spirited rhythms with elements of strong, melodic pop. Like a lot of their peers, Braid burned brightly for a short time, touring constantly and breaking up in 1999 with just three albums under their belt. While No Coast is technically Braid's first full-length release in 16 years, following 1998's definitive Frame & Canvas album, in many ways the band never left. After the breakup there were rarities collections, a live album, and a 2004 reunion -- but more than any of that, the members wasted no time beginning new projects after parting ways. Apart from various solo projects, three quarters of the band re-emerged almost immediately as Hey Mercedes, a less toothy reading of singer Bob Nanna's songwriting. The members of Braid staying highly active informs the vitality of No Coast, which sounds far less like a comeback album from a long-forgotten entity and more like a logical progression from the players involved who never stayed dormant for too long. The album begins with the floating yet angular "Bang," lingering in angelic midtempo reflection before exploding into the fast-paced emo-pop burst of "East End Hollows." Much of the album has the same fresh-faced energy of Braid's mid-'90s output, especially on more driving tracks like "Put Some Wings on That Kid." The spindly guitar technique and precise, mathy rhythms that the band excelled at are present on much of the album, especially bounding tunes like "Many Enemies." The bandmembers don't seem to be completely trying to capture the sound of their faded past, however. The interest in melody that they found in their post-Braid projects shows up as much as the fire and dissonance that seemed key to their early albums. Ironically, some songs take the same lighthearted, springy approach to pop hooks as Maritime, a band that rose from the ashes of the decidedly less polished Promise Ring around the same time that their peers in Braid were going in different, less explosive directions as well. While the passing of time shows with the changes evident on No Coast, the reunited Braid are by no means a mellowed shell of their former glory. Instead of turning in an attempt to reopen a closed chapter, Braid continue their story here, branching out in new directions and leaving room to wonder what comes next.

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