Deep in the Iris by Braids falls under the category of “albums I should have reviewed in 2015.” Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s powerful vocal performance brought an especially tense theme to the dream pop backdrop of her band with catchy hooks bringing more life to the climactic power ballads. Roughly one year after the release of Deep in the Iris, the group decided to release a work, entitled Companion EP, comprised of songs written and recorded around the same time period. It is clear that these four songs were written in the same headspace as Deep in the Iris, with Standell-Preston’s voice again soaring over similarly produced electronic stylings of Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith. Despite these similarities, strong songwriting combines with a slightly different instrumental approach making for a notable addition to the band’s catalogue.
Beginning with a song about the unintentional end of a childhood friendship, the EP addresses topics of heartbreak, loss, and anxiety. “Companion” paints a picture of a young chubby kid with a “shape…like a little plum” who “hadn’t yet grown tall” signifying innocent youth. The speaker is separated from the young boy, worries about the effect that her sudden absence has had on him, and hopes to let him know that it had nothing to do with him specifically. As the song moves forward, the lyrics begin to depict a very specific moment in the relationship, addressing the idea of how much can change in an instance. The hesitant keyboards grow as Standell-Preston begins to belt out lyrics about the boy’s fear of water; a fear that dissipates after the dust settles from the song’s climax when Standell-Preston says the words “Remember when I pushed you in? You were surprised that you floated.” Standell-Preston’s ability to evoke deep emotional impact out of her relatively minimal lyrical phrasing is simply astounding with each and every word amassing a greater effect on the listener. Next, the EP addresses a very specific feeling in a relationship on “Joni,” where Standell-Preston tries to convince herself that she is not worried about her future with a significant other. The anxiety in the lyricism is juxtaposed by the highly articulated drums, driving bass groove, and infectious hook that bring the song to a roaring state with each rendition of the chorus.
In the second half of the project, Standell-Preston’s lyrics grow slightly more esoteric, favoring vivid imagery over the outward presence of narrative in the first two tracks. On “Sweet World”, Standell-Preston discusses the change of season at a distance with the line “The grass is bleeding/Give it a bodybag of snow.” Later, the song takes a pretty bleak turn with suicide coming into the question; “See that pole jutting out of the corner/Sometimes I wanna tie my neck up/Let my limp limbs dangle down.” Standell-Preston just has a unique way of talking about things. Even when a song is focused on narration, imagery comes to the table making her words drip with beautiful poetic language. Also, “Sweet World” may be the most significant example of the sonic difference between Companion and Deep in The Iris. As a whole, this EP feels a bit more haunting. The cool nature of the keyboards combine with minor melodic tonality and clean vocal work making for an ethereal soundscape. On “Sweet World” specifically the dense rhythmic element drones on for seven minutes with sweeping melodic ideas coming from layers of vocal and instrumental melody.
Companion EP feels necessary. Perhaps the association between these songs and those released from the band in 2015 will never fully be lifted, however, Standell-Preston’s beautiful lyricism combines with fantastic work from the rest of the band making for a solid collection of songs.
Really Good. Only an EP so a bit short. 7.5/10