Take a listen to the future of a certain kind of pop music. Not pop as in Billboard pop, which seems more than usually mired in robotic, sound-alike simplism here in 2011—I’m talking about pop as in electric-based music with vocals, organized into three- or four-minute songs, aimed at a contemporary audience. As a matter of fact, the more the current age drives robotic, sound-alike simplism through the mainstream, the more today’s rebels may want to study, practice, and begin making songs of engaging complexity and humanity. No point in punks doing the Auto-Tuned, three-chord thing if that’s what’s on the charts.
From the opening violin salvo, you know you’re in for a different ride here. Nothing about this song is straightforward or commonplace, and yet it is consistently engaging. (If the Dirty Projectors were less self-consciously prickly, they might sound something like this.) Electronics are used to create cascading, watery sounds over a jittery rhythm; guitars fill in sometimes like pinpricks, sometimes in a shivery flow of liquid. Singer Raphaelle Standelle-Preston has a theatrical voice that can both soar and particularize—listen for instance to how she ejects this incisive couplet about disconnected lovers, sung seemingly from the male point of view: “I poke and turn/You smoke and yearn.” Meanwhile, you will rarely hear a more precise, restrained drummer in a rock song than Austin Tufts, who plays here like another intertwining instrumentalist rather than a time-keeping basher.
And of course Braids are from Canada. They are in fact four youngsters (all in their early 20s) from Calgary, who met in junior high school, became a band in high school, and were so intent on developing musically that they delayed going to college to practice together for a year. Then, in 2008, they moved to Montreal. And the rest isn’t history yet but it might yet be. Keep an eye on these guys. “Plath Heart” is from the quartet’s debut, Native Speaker, which will be released later this month on Kanine Records. MP3 via Pitchfork.