For those of us who find it acceptable to categorize music, Braid's 'Frame and Canvas' is, in my humble opinion, one of a handful of cornerstone emo classics: it is one of the albums that defines the genre, persay. Along with Sunny Day Real Estate's 'Diary', Mineral's 'The Power of Failing', The Promise Ring's '30 Degrees Everywhere' Texas is the Reason's 'Do You Know Who You Are?', Rites of Spring's 'End on End', Jimmy Eat World's 'Clarity', and Jawbreaker's 'Bivouac', this disc is one of the true greats of the whole scene. All of the aformentioned albums are significantly different from one another, and each has a distinctive element or a number of elements to it that set it apart from the rest. In Braid's case, I believe that the interlocking guitars, creative time changes, skilled technicality, and excellent compostion make them one of the best bands of the genre to surface, and then, unfortunately, dissolve.
Braid plays emo-pop, not emo-core; for it is lighter and easier to swallow than say Planes Mistaken for Stars or Drive Like Jehu, but they do not, like many many other emo-pop bands, cross the line into insincerity, sappiness, or over-exaggeration. Instead, Braid offers truly heartfelt music that has real substance to it.
The band's sound is not as bleak and depressive as the sounds of, for example, Mineral and Cross My Heart, but it still "tugs at the heartstrings" with intensity and depth. This is one of the reasons why I like this album so much: it displays an incredible depth of feeling, yet it is not depressive or brooding. The album has, like all great emo albums, a sentimentality and nostalgia for the past built into it, and it deals with the classic themes of relationships and self-definition. This album, at least to me, parallels The Promise Ring's '30 Degrees Everywhere,' for both of them display these qualities extremely well and much to the same effect.
Additionally, both albums offer poetic lyrics, that are, of course, intensely personal [and therefore not as obvious], but they contribute to universal understandings: there are some lines that will strike a definite note with you, or call upon a specific personal memory. The lyrics are personal to the writer yet they have the ability to stir your own senses and can be applied to your own personal experiences and memories. This is yet another reason why the album is so great: the lyrics are seemingly meaningless but upon further examination they really hit home, and are truly poetic.
Also, I personally like the band's usage of two singers. Like Jimmy Eat World's Atkinson and Lindon, Nanna's and Broach's singing meshes well and contributes to the pair's interlocking guitars.
The best songs on 'Frame and Canvas', in my humble opinion, are Urbana's too Dark, Killing a Camera, Never Will Come For Us, and a Dozen Roses, although there are no weak tracks on the album. This disc is hands-down one of my favorites.
If you like this one then I'd recommend Braid's other stuff, particularly 'The Age of Octeen'; that is also an excellent listen.
Note: check out Sky Corvair's 'Unsafe at Any Speed' [they have it here on Amazon.com but it's hard to find in generic music stores]. Sky Corvair was a sideproject of Cap'n Jazz and Braid, featuring Tom Kinsella of Cap'n Jazz and Bob Nanna of Braid. 'Unsafe at Any Speed' has to be one of the most overlooked, passed-over emo records ever. It is stunning and is every bit as good as 'Frame and Canvas.'