Braids @ The Harley
Montreal has recently established itself at the forefront of experimental pop music with bands such as Purity Ring and Majical Cloudz all emerging from the city. On Monday it was the turn of Braids, another Canadian export, to reveal their wares to an excited Harley audience.
First to the stage were Danish indie pop band Lowly, a pleasant surprise to the evenings line-up. Their dreamy, melodic take on indie rock translated well to the live setting and justified the buzz that has slowly built around the band since first emerging in 2014.
After a lengthy break in between bands, Braids lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston took to the stage to apologise for the bands late entry due to a tearful episode backstage – somewhat unsurprising since emotional upheaval is tied in greatly to Braids’ lyrics, which often deal with the challenging topics of abuse and broken relationships. The crowd were clearly empathetic and the trio were met with a warm reception when the first song, ‘Happy When’, came to an end.
Braids moved swiftly from song to song as the bands mesmeric melodies merged into one another. Their music is built around the tight interplay between the trio: lead singer Standell-Preston on guitar; the driving rhythm and percussion of drummer Austin Tufts; and Taylor Smith, who uses a synth pad and effects to build layered, airy hooks. The three piece managed to craft a brilliantly textured and atmospheric sound that filled the intimate venue.
However, the most impressive aspect were the vocals of Standell-Preston, which are capable of effortlessly flitting between powerful cries and fragile whispers. The full range of her voice really came to the fore on ‘Blondie’, which culminated with reverb soaked falsettos that left the crowd in awe.
Only one song, ‘Plath Heart’, was played from their psychedelic debut album, with the band mostly sticking to material from their most recent release Deep In the Iris. It has been widely praised for featuring Braids strongest material to date. The show came to an end with ‘Miniskirt’, their lead single from the album, which provides a passionate critique of slut-shaming. Once again, the track demonstrated the strength of Standell-Preston’s beautiful vocals over a brooding electronic sample. It was an all-too-brief set, but one that will last long in the memory.