Published May 18, 2016Braids' 2015 album Deep in the Iris already won the JUNO for Alternative Album of the Year, and was the band's second Polaris shortlist nomination in four years; it already has "Miniskirt"; the entire record is solid. Now, the experimental trio have appended it with luminous four-song EP Companion, and it fits nicely.
Raphaelle Standell-Preston has noted that the themes of sexism and trauma present here were part of a personal and emotional healing process, and it begins with a love letter to her stepbrother, who she never saw again after revelations of her stepfather's abuse tore the family apart. The final quiet moment on title track "Companion," once the reverb and piano dim to dark, is a moving sibling image painted Standell-Preston's hypnotic voice: "Remember when I pushed you in / You were surprised that you floated."
Often, the songs portray violence that just transpired: Austin Tufts' deft drumming sends "Joni" flying down the highway behind a smashed windshield. The spark between Tufts and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Smith allows them to back their vocalist confidently, and they do so throughout Companion.
Though, she needs no backing. Standell-Preston delivers "Trophies For Paradox" with thespian skill, encapsulating both lust and shame while the lyrics brim with sexuality. Just as the keys chime innocently and grainy strings pluck, a guillotine extinguishes the chorus, and a relationship ends. This unabashed refusal to look away is a crucial part of what makes Braids so compelling; everything is both pure and profane, and stigma can take a hike.
If Deep was the plunge, then Companion is the resurfacing. But when such a short album is so nuanced, it's satisfying to report that it can easily stand on its own. (Arbutus/Flemish Eye)