Humans are great at building up walls, but we don't necessarily prize the strength it takes to tear them down. After the 2012 dust-up that resulted in the departure of keyboardist Katie Lee, the three remaining members of electro-pop band Braids had a lot of healing to do. The great-but-grim 2013 Flourish // Perish reflected the fallout, so in preparation for this record, Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Taylor Smith and Austin Tufts finally took some time to confront, communicate and clean up the wreckage. The result is Deep in the Iris, a musical mash-up of acoustic and electronic influences that's both achingly vulnerable and tentatively joyful.
The lyrics are heart-crackingly raw, like the great fuck-you to sexism, "Miniskirt," or "Taste," which contrasts its upbeat pop tempo with disturbing, violent lines like "Grab me by the throat," "Spit all your hurt on me" and the devastating chorus, "We experience the love that we think we deserve." On "Happy When," Standell-Preston's desires are touchingly simple: "I want to love myself" and "I wave to passersby / They wave back at me / I feel like somebody." Most braids consist of three pieces interweaved, stronger together than apart, and songs like this only come from places of safety, of survival, of fighting for each other. Deep in the Iris marks a turning point for the band, and I can't wait to hear what's next. (Flemish Eye)