Release Date: Apr 28, 2015
Record label: Arbutus Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Raphaelle Standell-Preston is prolific. In 2013, the Canadian artist was a part of two significant releases: Blue Hawaii’s debut LP, Untogether, and the sophomore LP with her Montreal-based three-piece Braids (Flourish // Perish). While Untogether was a response to writing a record a long distance away from her then-boyfriend and collaborator, Braids has always been her main hang, and for Deep In The Iris, she and bandmates Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith stole away to mountainous retreats to inspire their art, through transparency and open self-reflection.
On their 2013 album Flourish // Perish, Braids created a record of such striking originality, I had my doubts as to whether they'd ever better it. The bar raised suitably high, the Canadian trio re-emerge two years later and bring nine new songs with them. So, have they managed to better their previous album? In a word, yes. Yes they have.
Braids have been no less hesitant to engage directly with their influences than they have been to move beyond them. There were some overt Animal Collective-isms of their debut, Native Speaker, but they were all but entirely put to bed by the time the album was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize in 2011. Flourish // Perish was a polar shift in tone and temperature, swapping Native Speaker‘s sweaty physicality for a presence that summoned every available synonym for ice.
There's always been a therapeutic quality to Braids' soul-searching dream pop, from the vulnerable sensuality of Native Speaker to Flourish//Perish's frosty meditations on grief and loss. On Deep in the Iris, the trio reconciles both approaches, working through the aftermath of a crisis with a focus on healing. "Friends, lovers and enemies … I forgive them, I hope they forgive me" Raphaelle Standell-Preston sings on "Letting Go," and throughout the album, emotions are almost as tangible as the people feeling them.
Humans are great at building up walls, but we don't necessarily prize the strength it takes to tear them down. After the 2012 dust-up that resulted in the departure of keyboardist Katie Lee, the three remaining members of electro-pop band Braids had a lot of healing to do. The great-but-grim 2013 Flourish // Perish reflected the fallout, so in preparation for this record, Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Taylor Smith and Austin Tufts finally took some time to confront, communicate and clean up the wreckage.
Braids found the forms in their vapor. On 2011’s Native Speaker and 2013’s Flourish // Perish, the Montreal-based group probed at experimental song structures inside an electronic murk. They prized feeling over detail; lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston sang lyrics that were vague enough to resist enclosing any situation in particular, words full of angst and dreamy restlessness that could slide over any emotional disquiet.
Review Summary: Greater accessibility has far from inhibited this strikingly immersive LP.Braids are most definitely a band that are unwilling to stagnate. On their critically acclaimed debut LP ‘Native Speaker’, the Canadian indie-rockers channelled Bjork and ‘Feels’ era Animal Collective. Two years later, polarizing follow-up ‘Flourish // Perish’ all but ditched guitars, sounding like a mix of Portishead and ‘Kid A’ era Radiohead! And while one could make a case that their third album ‘Deep in the Iris’ splits its two predecessors sonically, that is far too simplistic a view to take of a record that is such a natural progression.
What remains of a relationship after it ends? Pictures, text messages, mementos, sure, but the hardest things to hold onto are the fleeting sensations: the taste of a person’s mouth, the feeling of first standing naked in front of them, the dent in the pillow where a lover’s head once laid. Braids’ third album Deep in the Iris plays as a record of all these tiny memories, accrued in the aftermath of losing someone. The record is rich with startling little images: Stories of being pushed down the stairs, being confronted as a child for mistakes made, wanting to crack the eggs of a group of hatching pigeons flicker across the album’s lyrics.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. "I'm wearing red/and if I am you feel you've the right to touch me" Raphaelle Standell-Preston testifies on the lead single from Braids' third album. In its visceral five minutes, 'Miniskirt' makes abundantly clear a shift has occurred in the Canadian three-piece's energy. Its lyrics rage and rebuke misogyny; from its historical roots to today's slut shaming.
Raphaelle Standell maps the often-vast gaps between love and sex — see Braids' 2011 standout "Lemonade" and the object lesson on her Canadian art-rock crew's excellent third LP, Miniskirt, a jeweled time bomb staring down child abuse, eating disorders and slut-shame culture. The music is sensual and surprising, with echoes of Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins. But there's an inviting new clarity to what Braids are doing: piano chords ground the synth and guitar whirls; the hooks sink in.
Pain is disarming; power is insidious (personally, politically, critically). Deep In The Iris, the third album from Montreal-via-Calgary’s BRAIDS, draws from a reservoir of pain and the power that keeps it: Raphael Standell-Preston’s lyrics here are plainspokenly autobiographical, her two narrative focuses a devastating breakup and a seemingly abusive relationship with her step-family. There is no misdirecting, little poetry to be wielded.
The last time we heard Braids was on their sophomore effort ‘Flourish // Perish’, which marked a period of synthesis for the band. Keyboardist Katie Lee departed the band in 2012 and Braids’ focused their efforts on honing a less guitar-centric sound, with only one track on their second record featuring the instrument. For ‘Deep in the Iris’ Braids recruited Damian Taylor to co-produce, having previously worked with Bjork on ‘Biophilia’’s opening track ‘Moon’ – this definitely shows, with parts of the record sounding particularly indebted to Bjork’s recent output.
BRAIDS have always felt like the right band at the wrong time. Their first two records—Flourish // Perish and Native Speaker—are remarkable melanges of twitching experimental pop led by Raphaelle Standell-Preston's spell-casting intonations. Yet the Canadian trio have never quite managed to convert critical acclaim to mass adulation, partly down to the wealth of contemporaries operating on a similar level.
opinion by SAMUEL TOLZMANN What’s in a feeling? Devoid of scientific logic, conventional wisdom considers emotion among the least quantifiable aspects of human experience. Because the effect of music on our emotions appears to bypass structural logic, we tend to think of music as an emotional medium. Pop, at least, is in subterranean collusion with the notion that feelings are too complicated to consider in their own right.
Your average pop hook touts some precarious ties to intimacy: somehow, sweeping testimonies about love rarely feel vulnerable when they’re swathed in big beats and layered harmonies. With their second record, 2013’s Flourish / / Perish, Montreal’s Braids edged closer to a synthpop sound while still managing to keep listeners at arm’s length. Tracks like “Freund” and “Amends” were spacious and austere, never once revealing any emotional investments, forgoing pain and pleasure in the service of a stoic soundscape.
Raphaelle Standell-Preston harnesses lyrical power on the third Braids album, on which she sings with naked candour about her feelings, namely regarding relationships - not just with lovers and friends, but with people in general. Shiver-inducing first single Miniskirt is an indictment of double standards when it comes to slut-shaming. The complex Taste, meanwhile, sounds both like a sensual love song and one about abuse.