This article first appeared at No Ripcord on June 29, 2016.

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Companion is comprised of four tracks from Braids’ sessions for Deep in the Iris, their third and so far best album. Still, don’t think these are scraps from the cutting room floor. The trio of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith are too dedicated to let their fans off that easily. Instead, Companion is exactly what it says it is, an accompanying piece that gives you a deeper look into the same journey.

The haunting title track begins with Standell-Preston’s voice, mournful and resigned, singing “It had nothing to do with you/how can I make that more clear?” to her stepbrother, who was left behind when her family was torn apart by the actions of her abusive stepfather. All the focus here is on her passionate delivery, with synths that gently swell like waves on a beach. It’s such a stripped-back track that it feels like we’re intruding on a private conversation she’s wanted to have for years with her sibling.

The destruction of a different type of relationship is the subject of Trophies for Paradox. Beautifully warped, taunt guitar strings form the bed of this tale of a man who fulfills his desire and then dismantles the relationship. Standell-Preston deftly takes her opening lines of optimism, “He came in/Like a winner/Strong and slim/Trophies in his grin,” and turns them upside-down as the relationship turns cold, singing “He came in/Like a sinner/Small and grim/Trophies to the wind.”

Joni moves with a jittery, jagged beat from Tufts, fitting for lyrics about being comfortable with not knowing where your life is heading. While the beat never truly goes off the rails, enough elements keep pushing and pulling it in opposite directions, with Standell-Preston’s vocal as the only anchor. Her voice is equally vital in Sweet World, echoing like wind over a canyon, as classical piano keys play off sharp percussion below. Still, this closing song does go on for a bit too long and doesn’t capture your attention as much as the other three tracks do.

While Sweet World may not be the best note to end on, Companion as a whole is an ideal way to close this chapter of Braids. It’s an excellent way not only to revisit and expand on some themes from Deep in the Iris, but also to hold us over for what comes next.

6/10