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"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. It's instantaneously jarring and vivid to hear Preston step out of the subdued vocal style which featured on Braids' previous two records and fellow band Blue Hawaii. It's an unexpected feminist anthem which calls out men who misinterpret female expression as their own sexual conquest.
As its title suggests, Deep In The Iris follows the realm of observation and reflection. The trio recorded the album over a number of retreats in the mountains of Arizona, upstate New York and Vermont. These sessions appear to have marked by an increased confidence in their abilities and potential, which courses through the nine songs on the record. It nods to the instrumentation of their debut and their almost exclusively electronic second record, Flourish // Perish, as they hone their mix of organic and digital sounds.
Several songs delve into the feelings and anxieties after the end of a relationship. With personal anecdotes and stories, instead of feeling intrusive, they invite the listener in. Some feel as though they have instilled the lessons learned in their own search for clarity, like the message of 'Taste' ("We experience the love that we think we deserve"). They question the human need to be in a relationship on 'Bunny Rose' while Preston resolves that she could live quite happily alone with her dog. Elsewhere, the subtle dance of 'Sore Eyes' explores the realm of pornography and its impact on relationships. There's an endearing relatability in their forthright writing style, as this song admits, "Make believe that I am in touch with myself, Do the kind of things I watch from someone else."
Deep In The Iris is full-bodied and assertive, while their lyrics address both the personal and the cultural. 'Blondie', being one of the album's more urgent moments, rides on drum 'n' bass rhythms and crashing drums, as Preston projects her soaring vocals to its climax. Their ideals of autonomy and clarity, which feature in the lyrics, are mirrored in their music. They have tightened their sound, which heralds a sense of mastery of what Braids can achieve as a collective.
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