[15 August 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
After a 12-year absence, Braid returns with a brief new EP, Closer to Closed, and it certainly shows the changes time brings. This is a much more tuneful sound from the band—miles away from the ragged The Age of Octeen or even their more melodic last record, Frame and Canvas—that puts them somewhere between their tangled post-hardcore roots and Death Cab-esque power-pop. The run of minor-chord riffs in the verse of “The Right Time” straightens out into a bracing chorus, and “You are the Reason” could be a mid-tempo slog, but its buoyed nicely by warm pianos. Closer “Universe or Worse” is the biggest stretch here for the band, spanning six minutes and dealing in subtler textures. Rather than fill up space, the guitars make room here for the rhythm section to drive the song effectively. It’s an important moment because it invites possibility. Too many of these songs deal in a certainty of the darker side, and the emotions don’t resonate as a result. When “Do Over” wraps on the line “now is the part where I break your heart” it rings as both false and a bit self-possessed. “Universe of Worse” on the other hand, complicates the band’s sonics and that certainty, ending with the contradictory “I don’t know, I never will know”. That less ham-handed notion shows the right ways in which the band has grown. Closer to Closed is a curiously short return, and there’s no plans for a full-length to follow, but at least the band pushes itself in these 16 minutes, rather than retreading the high-water mark they left on.