Review: Braids’ Deep In The Iris

Deep in the iris, you see a place of hope. Look at the floor—see how the hammer of fate has dropped.

Braids have always stood out in Montréal—ask anyone who has seen them in the last seven years. With Deep in the Iris, Braids define themselves as a group existing entirely within a league of their own. Their unique sound features Taylor Smith (guitar, synthesizer and occasional techno xylophone), weaving floral melodies amongst thick electro textures and relentless, picture perfect grooves and are painted percussively onto the mental scenery by Austin Tufts. Of course, I mention vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston last—her singing and musicianship is extraordinary. She is a force of nature and celestial talent, and her lyrics are ironically, beyond words.

In a time where poetry in song is often pushed back in the mix and left as puzzles for the audience, Deep in the Iris is a coming of age record through the striking power of its lyrics: “the hardest part is letting go/ The hardest part is letting go.” This is the basic nature of our whole lives. “Letting Go” is the beginning of the album and the end of everything else.

Anyone who has ever been in love will know the lyrics of “Taste” before ever hearing the song: “take me by the hand/ Guide me through this phase of not really knowing where I am/ … Will you push me up against this wall / And spit all your hurt against me/ So I can feel my reach.”

Another lyrical standout wrenching at your emotions is “Miniskirt” which touches on themes of abuse. You can almost feel the tears when you remember how you were abused, or how you felt when you abused someone else. You dance to “Miniskirt” not because you’re joyous, but because this is all you have to protect yourself from the inherent evil in being a human animal. Every person I have ever known has felt the lyrics of this song: “we’re all going, going/ Never knowing/ What we had/ Until it’s gone.”

Felt like I messed up already. Watched some porn and surfed ‘til my eyes got sore again. And now I’m feeling gross and choked, like everything I don’t want to be a part of.

You have a computer? Bet you know what this is like. You can watch so many videos of unrealistically naked people having sex and be so disconnected, that’s just how it is. Nobody questions it, you just do it, you forget it. Who are we? Why do we do this? I’m not guilty, am I?

I go for a walk to the store and get some flowers and milk and a single cigarette. There’s a certain Dep in the Mile End where you can buy single cigarettes.

I don’t really want to fall in love again.

So what’s the bad with being alone while we’re living? Why the sorrow and the groan of curling up with a stuffy that lives long after you do? Named my bundles of cotton Piggy, Tishan and Bunny Rose. They wait for me to come home to lie upon my throne. I don’t really want to give
myself again, the act of being naked in front of a friend. See when their eyes digress from their softer pure place, their smile taking form from the thirstiness they so often hid away.

Raphaelle barely knows me but she’s just put unminced words to why I don’t hunger for a relationship, why I answer and belong only to the fat cat that roams in my apartment. All the while, shining through swirling vocals and synths, sustained piano notes caterwaul, resounding strongly into the darkest reaches of my mind.

For as long as I live I’ll remember Deep in the Iris because with every spin, I grow up a little more. This is the album that speaks directly to my innards, a soul-scorcher at the level of “Blue” by Joni Mitchell. Both are deeply, deeply personal, yet it’s universal in scope. Dancing, friendship, music, love, drinking, parties, sex, work, death, sorrow, catharsis, staring at the sky wondering what it’s all for; seeing planes fly by, missing your family, the traffic lights change, seasons change, time marches on and we all get older despite ourselves – this is Deep in the Iris.

I once loved someone with everything I had but it was not enough. I often think about telling them again how I feel. Actually, I always do, all the time. But I know I can’t anymore, I know that time is gone. Such facts of life are immortalized in the album’s closer, “Warm Like Summer.” It’s at once mournful and triumphant, with swooning, soaring progressions rising up and up until the album has finished.

Raphaelle sings:

It’s over now, it’s over. So nice to think of when we slept in the same bed. I wake up on my side with you still on my mind. Kneel down again to what’s no longer mine. If you ever wonder now, know you’re always in my heart. There is no end, there is no start because you’re always in my heart.

For all the time I am blessed with on this earth, Deep in the Iris will always be in my heart.

Hurricane Sweeps Through Concordia »

« Pressbox Hat Trick Podcast: EP39 Ken Holland Edition