In this business, it is not fashionable to admit ignorance. I, however, have always been more interested in honesty than in fashion, and so I have no problem confessing when I have been wrong about an artist. In this case, I have to say that I was late to the party when it comes to the band BRAIDS. I had heard many times from friends and respected musical observers how imperative it was that I go see them, that I listen to their album, et cetera. It took them opening for Toro Y Moi, though, to motivate me enough to get off my figurative ass and investigate. Needless to say, I was more than impressed – I was awestruck. What I saw in that short opening set was the stuff of legends. The first and lasting impression was that I was witnessing the second coming of Animal Collective. They had the personality of the Grass / Sung Tongs era, the pop prowess and instrumentation of Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the flippant, don’t-care attitude of Strawberry Jam. Of course, a multitude of other influences were at play, but Animal Collective (especially pre-egocentric AC) was the most direct and noticeable of all. There may only have been 200 people there that night, but it felt like a 700-800 person dance party for those 30 or so minutes. I then was compelled to delve deeper. I found them in the smallest places (Kanine Records promo releases, most notably), caught a song here or there playing in the background at record stores, and eventually came to find them on Rhapsody in the form of Native Speaker. It is a hell of an album, both consistently brilliant and brilliantly consistent. It’s less of a dance party, even if it does house the very tunes they played live like “Plath Heart” (an instant classic), and it’s more involved with experimentalism within the indie dance / electropop sonic shell. There are plenty of danceable moments, but it’s like the difference between reading the cartoons in the newspaper and viewing an art exhibit – Native Speaker is the most mature display of blended pop and art we have seen all year, and in fact in many years.