Braid – Movie Music Vol. I and Vol. II

Braid
Movie Music Vol. I and Vol. II

Most Braid fans already have these two albums, the last of the albums that Braid will release (supposedly) now that the seminal band has broken up. There’s a few new songs here, but mostly these albums contain something of a Braid retrospective. For those fans who already own the band’s three studio albums, this is a chance to hear everything else, all the 7-inch releases and singles and compilation tracks. It’s like the ultimate Braid rarities tape, and it will make all those carefully scrounged records a bit less valuable.
For those unfamiliar with Braid, this band bridged the gap between chaotic urgency and more melodic emotion. They have been lumped in with both the emo and post-hardcore categories. Their music started out angry and loose, with screaming and constant time changes, and it developed into songs that are catchy, clever, and fun. The band has been listed as an influence by countless bands, despite their relatively short life, and so this provides a proper celebration of their musical lives.
Movie Music Vol. I comprises all of the band’s songs released on 7″ records, and Braid has done quite a few of them. They’re included chronologically, so you get a sense of the band’s development over the years. While some have said it’s helpful to see how the band improved, I revel in Braid’s early work, especially these early singles that are better than most of the songs from their first album. The first songs, such as “Sounds Like Violence,” “Motion Light,” and “Perfect Pitch” are much closer to the hardcore end of the spectrum than the post-hardcore label that the band was usually given. There’s a sense of looseness and fun, as well as much more of an urgency from a band that may have abandoned some of their emotion for hooks and clever lyrics. You get a feel of the band’s originality and experimentation, such as the horns on the soft-to-hard “Radish White Icicle” and the time changes and screams of “Fire Makes the House Grow.” By the time you get to “Now I’m Exhausted,” the band is on more comfortable ground for those fans who dig their more melodic and less harsh later work, and the songs take on a more poppy feel. The end of this album contains songs recorded after Braid’s last studio album, which makes a nice bookend to the band’s career but are a bit too familiar after the nice change of the earlier songs.
Movie Music Vol. II includes all of the songs Braid contributed to compilations over the years, including several covers. Of the two albums, this is by far the lesser. That should be obvious, for a band is usually putting its best foot forward with singles and 7-inches but often tossing out throw-aways or writing something quick to satisfy a compilation request. There are some exceptions, like the short “Elephant,” with soft, female vocals and the chaotic frenzy. “Eulalia, Eulalia,” with its starting sample and its more straight-forward rock structure is probably my favorite on the album, and “Grand Theft Autumn” is all the frenzied, aggressive amazement coupled with softer introspection that is Braid. And the bass-heavy, hand-clap-filled, screaming, angst-ridden “To Kiss a Trumpet Player” is not technically perfect, but it sure is fun. There are also several different versions of album songs and others that I am familiar with, which makes me value this volume considerably less. The covers (Billy Joel, The Pixies, The Smiths) are relatively decent and interesting but not so good as to make me pursue them or skip ahead to them. Travis from the Dismemberment Plan does re-work Braid’s “Roses in the Car” to an interesting effect.
For those who say Braid is simply milking the success that came about late in their career with this rarities album and another live album, read the liner notes. The band had been planning this double album, even down to the name itself, long before their break-up. Instead of faulting the band, praise them for making their music more accessible to their fans. It’s not like this is a greatest hits album but rather a resource that is vital to fans of this unique and groundbreaking band. By releasing the two discs separately, it gives fans a chance to skip the sketchy second album and get the amazing first album.