Raphaelle Standell-Preston has, in recent times, become something of a go-to ‘sonic apothecary for digital malaise,’ and as she, Taylor Smith and Austin Tufts – together, better known as Braids – return with not one, but two new ones in tow, she’s at the metaphorical analgesics once again.
The first, entitled Collarbones, picks up where Blue Hawaii’s smartphone-phobic, if fantastic, Tenderness left off: “We are so near, yet so alone/ Sittin’ next to each other, lookin’ at our phones” she begins, before this somewhat facile musing on modern-day faffing morphs into something altogether more incisive. Smooth and soothing, her voice floats balletically atop what is, by the Canadians’ virtuosic standards, a rather stripped-back track (perhaps more reminiscent of Meilyr Jones than, say, Miniskirt), but there’s ample kick to her every lyric. Whether these should concern the self-lo[v/ath]ing virtues of Tinder (“Can I be your new friend?/ I hope I never meet you/ Just stay as a number/ Help make me feel better”) or brash airbrush vainglory (“Do you think it makes me look pretty when I soften all my lines away?/ When I make myself look as far away from real”), Standell-Preston now writes with a candid determination which few possess.
And it’s one which bleeds into the woebegone Burdock & Dandelion with as much, if not more bruising intent. Likening her iPhone to “a weapon…lift[ed] to [her] face ninety times a day,” the sentiment may go against the highly digitised track beneath, although this is fast becoming Braids’ trademark: their offsetting Standell-Preston’s human, but also supremely humane, vocal (and occasional guitar) with all these sounds that are totally symptomatic of technological confusion; of an epoch in which “everything around [us] is moving faster than we ever expected.” Thus as she goes on to square off fears of “gettin’ older,” and quiz why “we all want someone, need someone” – when not taking aim at a certain someone, “supported by his parents, [who] doesn’t have the nerve to text [her] back after a fuck” – Braids’ return feels as vital as it does necessarily curative.