For Champaign-Urbana’s Braid, the hardest part of breaking up was actually staying apart. During its initial six-year run that ended in 1999 (following the release of the masterful Frame & Canvas a year earlier) the band dropped a new single or split every few months, making it one of most prolific bands of emo’s second wave. It would also be one of the first of that scene to reunite, mending fences for a brief victory lap in 2004, a venture that would prove to be a holdover until its second, more permanent reunion in 2011, when it returned as a recording act with the four-song Closer To Closed EP.
Though it had its merits, Closer To Closed ultimately felt like a band attempting to find itself following a decade of silence. It would take a couple of years to settle into itself again, and it did so wonderfully on its split with Balance And Composure. Its two songs, “Lux” and “Many Enemies,” fell in line with its classic material, but signaled a new direction, one that is only furthered by the release of its fourth album, No Coast.
No Coast works because the band doesn’t attempt to turn back the clock, instead acknowledging just how much time has passed both through its lyrics and its matured musical approach. On No Coast the band appears older, and a little slower, but no less energized. Vocalists Bob Nanna and Chris Broach don’t attempt to pepper in the high-energy (and occasionally off-key) yelps of their youth, instead showing just how strong their voices have gotten in the interim.
As Nanna so often did with the Braid of old, he alternates between nearly hushed whispers and emphatic shouts, anchoring much of No Coast’s slower material, like the album’s title track. Yet Nanna proves he can still offer up rocking rallying cries, as “Put Some Wings On That Kid” has all the hallmarks of a long-lost track from one of the its many 7-inches. On the flip side, Broach finds himself pairing better with Nanna, no longer relegated to the energetic interjections in the songs his counterpart fronts (though “Damages!” does offer such a callback), and the songs he leads—such as the infinitely catchy “East End Hollows”—see him at his most self-assured.
Even though “Lux” and “Many Enemies” reappear here, they have added garnishes, proving that Braid hasn’t spent the last year resting on its laurels. Instead, it’s worked to make each song a fully formed maturation of what it was doing in its heyday. At a time when many bands are citing Braid as an influence, the band has popped back up, proving it’s not a reunion act, but that it remains a vital part of emo’s ongoing history. With No Coast Braid has changed, but it’s retained the identity it established all those years ago, making for a return that’s not only welcome, but one that’s wholly necessary.