Deep in the Iris

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There's always been a therapeutic quality to Braids' soul-searching dream pop, from the vulnerable sensuality of Native Speaker to Flourish//Perish's frosty meditations on grief and loss. On Deep in the Iris, the trio reconciles both approaches, working through the aftermath of a crisis with a focus on healing. "Friends, lovers and enemies … I forgive them, I hope they forgive me" Raphaelle Standell-Preston sings on "Letting Go," and throughout the album, emotions are almost as tangible as the people feeling them. This is most obvious on "Miniskirt," a stream-of-consciousness history of sexual violence where Preston traces her feelings of violation and objectification back to her mother's domestic abuse, with a throaty abandon that recalls a vengeful Liz Fraser, but it also lends catharsis to Deep in the Iris' quieter moments. The way "Happy When"'s emotional tenor changes as gradually and dramatically as a late afternoon turning to twilight recalls the way Björk (another of Braids' influences) used Vulnicura's wide-format songs to follow complicated feelings all the way through to their half-lives. Even a shorter song like "Getting Tired" contains a wealth of emotions despite its brevity. Less electronic than Flourish//Perish, the album's warmer, more organic sound complements these shifts beautifully, whether the band balances them with gymnastic beats on "Blondie" or lets their heat anchor tracks like "Taste," a shimmering realization of falling back in love that is one of Braids' finest songs yet. Deep in the Iris honors emotional states that aren't easy to express -- musically or otherwise -- and brings a clarity to them that make it some of the band's most empathetic music.

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