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The first track off Braids' Deep in the Iris begins with a sigh. It may be the shift of an instrument before the first piano note, or a warmer, human sound. Either way, it’s a steeling of sorts: take that breath, and proceed to the heavy.
On this, the Calgary dream-pop trio’s third full-length, we find vocalist Raphaelle Standell both perfectly restrained and heavily raging. Each track begins with her clear, powerful vocals, often ending in a carnal outpouring of sound. There is grief in these words. In these notes.
In the album’s first single, "Miniskirt," Standell is pointed:
"For us it's just a stamp to the head,
For them another notch in the bed.
It's like I'm wearing red,
And if I am,
You feel you've the right to touch me,
'Cause I asked for it.
"In my little mini skirt,
Think you can have it,
My little mini skirt,
It's mine all mine."
She wastes no time with each lyric ("Liberated is what you wanna call it, how about unfairly choked?"), detailing abuse, time spent in a women’s shelter and a second chance. The instrumentation starts off simply, as single piano notes, and builds to a tense rage. In the last 30 seconds, Standell repeats, "It's my little mini skirt, think you can have it. / My little mini skirt, it's mine all mine," until, by song’s end, all the sound grinds to a halt, the technology glitching its way to a slow conclusion.
Despite the lyrical weight of Deep in the Iris, this followup to Flourish // Perish has a warmer touch than its predecessor. For the recording, the trio — Standell, Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith — worked at a series of mountain retreats in Arizona, Vermont and upstate New York. "Surrounded by nature in all its warm vitality, the longtime bandmates strove to shed the fabric of their day to day relationships, being bare and vulnerable before one another," said the label's (Flemish Eye) press release.
"Vulnerable" feels like an understatement. The album is layered, but never instrumentally heavy — that space is left for Standell’s vocal delivery. On "Taste," she sings, "'Cause we experience the love that we think we deserve, and I guess I thought I didn’t need much from this world." On "Happy When," though, Standell hints at finding a place to rest: "Sit down with emotion, take the time to feel it. / Like a cloud across the mind, never holding onto, / let it all just billow by."
Deep in the Iris is a punch to the gut, wrapped in rhythmic, electronic warmth. Don’t let yourself miss out.
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1. "Letting Go"
4. "Happy When"
6. "Getting Tired"
7. "Sore Eyes"
8. "Bunny Rose"
9. "Warm Like Summer"
Deep in the Iris will be released April 28. Pre-order it here.