This four-song EP from Braid — the Champaign, Illinois, group’s first new material in 13 years — was intended for release on Record Store Day in April. Clearly, however, this is a band with little concern for deadlines. Whatever circumstances rallied the long-buried group to return to the studio with producer J. Robbins, Closer to Closed is not so much a howl from beyond the grave as a hand sticking up from the graveyard dirt, feeling its way around the old stomping grounds.
Opener “The Right Time,” sung by guitarist Chris Broach, is a “should she stay or should she go” song heavily tilted toward Very Emergency-era Promise Ring; the guitars twist and crunch around the Midwestern-affable vocals. The remainder of the tracks are voiced by the more-familiar frontman Bob Nanna, but the tone remains mostly muted in comparison to wiry, tense 1998 benchmark Frame & Canvas. The six-minute “Universe or Worse” is more of a percussive exercise than a rock song, while the stabbing, noisy guitars on “Do Over” lean more toward Superchunk’s pop/punk than Jawbox’s machine-shop rock. (Braid was endlessly compared to the latter band during its initial run.) Rounding out the EP is a cover of Jeff Hanson’s “You are the Reason”; the falsetto-voiced Hanson died of drug-related causes in 2009. In all, Closer to Closed is part tribute to a departed friend, part testing of the comeback waters and altogether more even-tempered than the first time around.