Despondency has never sounded so alluring. Calgary art-rockers Braids have returned with a follow up to their excellent 2013 album ‘Flourish//Perish’. Three years and nine songs later, the trio have put ‘Deep In The Iris’ on the table. At first listen, it’s metallic and gentle. After a few more listens, the album goes a lot deeper: it’s ferocious, revealing and bitter-sweet to say the least.
More fleshy than its predecessors, Braids have ditched any sonically stagnate timbres that their previous albums ran from, for a more dramatic and subtle sound. The delicate and poppy ‘Taste’ for example, strikes a chord with combination of calm piano and hushed harmonies, before tailing off into a fervent percussive chorus. Lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s feathery vocals lead the track, and indeed the whole album, into an adventurous and untamed new direction. Taking a more dramatic turn, following track ‘Blondie’ marries the shoe-gaze-like velocity of Warpaint with the sugary weirdness of Björk. Like a rush of blood, the band’s energy deems to come without notice.
‘Deep In The Iris’ manages to be sentimental, regretful, and woeful all at the same time. Braids beautifully marble all of these different emotions together within their complex and unique sound. Ranging from tender and intimate to sturdy and aggressive, the album is brimming with subtle messages. The wonderfully sombre ‘Bunny Rose’ for instance dispels the myth that loneliness is anything but glamorous: “I don’t really want to give myself again / the act of being naked in front of a friend.”
‘Deep In The Iris’ isn’t all about broken relationships, however. Alternatively, tracks like the boldly feminist ‘Miniskirt’ are more forceful and fiery. Reclaiming her body from a chauvinist society, Standell-Preston sings “You feel you’ve the right to touch me / cause I asked for it / in my little mini skirt.” Both frontal and literal, the track is a big middle-fingered salute towards sexism. What’s more; it is all sung over a driving electro-pop sound. So, what’s not to like? Closing track ‘Warm Like Summer’ brings the album to an organic end. Over a thimble of skittering jazz percussion and a rise of synthesisers, Standell-Preston continues to be lyrically prolific, as she sums up the awkwardness of going through a breakup: “You and I fall away / sway my fate deciding we are friends / It’s over now it’s over.” Although its a cold topic, Braids certainly give it a warm sound.
In the end, Braids latest album can be summed up by its artwork. Like a solitary stretch of water, ‘Deep In The Iris’ boggles the mind. Its message, metaphors and meanings are countless and confusing, yet strangely compelling. At its calmest, ‘Deep In The Iris’ is faint, still and tragic. At its most tempered, however, its waters begin to ripple and crease into a sonically driven, rhythmically unrelenting electronic dance-pop record. With a kink at every turn, Braids’ latest donation to the world of music is rainy in mood, and even rainier in execution. A heartbreaking triumph, that swells endlessly throughout.
For Fortitude Magazine: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/album-review-braids-deep-iris/24978/