The disc is called Flourish//Perish, which is what many second albums might be titled. From the Montreal-based art-pop trio Braids – right, a threesome; departed keyboardist Katie Lee succumbed to the band’s growing pains – comes a reflective record with lyrical attention paid to doubts, egos and a pizza-eating boy in need of Pepto-Bismol.
The follow-up to the dreamy, watery and acclaimed 2011 debut Native Speaker, is elegantly languid and electronically crisper than its hazy predecessor. The floaty and occasionally yelping singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston expresses her distress with a sort of hesitant catharsis, often in reaction to her former colleague’s departure (which happened part-way through the making of Flourish//Perish, and was apparently related to a power struggle). Flourish or perish. In between is to linger, and that kind of halfway loitering just won’t do for explorers like Standell-Preston, whose voice is more front-and-centre on this disc than the last.
“If three can run, four wants to cry,” she sings on Together, flying across and within arm’s length of the electric beats. And on the bleepy Victoria: “A beautiful three, their roots extending I hope forever, happily.”
The soundtrack is minimalist, synthesized and icy, with Standell-Preston lost in her existentialist winter. “What are we living for, what am I living for,” she asks on December. “Pick yourself up off the floor, take a walk and then once more.” One gets the feeling that Standell-Preston didn’t get around to much Christmas shopping last year, more pressing things being on her mind.
The mid-album track Hossak is for enthusiasts of trances and strange encounters. The boy knocking on the window has a slice of Italian fast food and some indigestion because of it. Just because people don’t often write songs about these kinds of situations doesn’t mean they don’t happen.
The girl of Girl could be Feist, with a tricked-out laptop.
The album ends with In Kind, a pop song at its heart, though it sprawls a bit. Vocally, Standell-Preston is at her dynamic best, beautifully breaking fine crystal objects over here and then getting angsty-snarly over there. The song is about rebirth – wanting to be fresh and pure again – and perhaps about having a clearness of mind. Flourish. Don’t look back. Can’t wait for the next album, because good things come in threes.