It had been a few months since I had seen a show at Bottom of the Hill, so I was looking forward to heading out to the dark, but always-great sounding venue. Having only heard Native Speaker, the Montreal-based BRAIDS’ debut full length a few times, I went to the Bottom of The Hill with a mixed set of expectations. I found the album to be mesmerizing and engaging when given the right setting and environment; but, had also heard from a few colleagues that their stage presence and song selection dragged at times during past performances. Whether that had been true or not, it certainly was not the case that evening.
Pepper Rabbit, the duo hailing from Silverlake, Ca., opened the night with a solid performance. Pepper Rabbit earned the crowd over quickly with their unique mix of airy pop and sweeping vocals. Highlighted by “Lake House” and “Allison,” from their debut full length, Red Velvet Snow Ball.
After a rather lengthy sound check, and a bit of technical frustration between the band and the sound man, the group exited the stage and returned moments later to begin a musical journey. Within seconds of taking the stage a tone was set. It felt as though we had just entered into some sort of strange state of sleep paralysis, aware of our surroundings, but completely captured by the sights, sounds, and emotions of the group on stage. The acoustics of the venue nursed the layered vocal arrangements and extended notes of the keys and guitars comfortably. The crowd seemed ecstatic about their sound and overall tightness as a band highlighted by songs such as “Lemonade” and “Same Mum” that had me humming them in my head the next morning, particularly, the last two minutes of “Lemonade,” which featured an air-tight version of the song’s noisy, layered outro.
But Raphaelle Standell-Preston, the group’s lead singer, is what truly makes the whole project work. She caps off the group’s dreamy sound with an enthralling stage presence, wide vocal range, and amazing musicianship. Don’t get me wrong, the band needs each member to pull off their unique blend of art-rock, but without Raphaelle their sound would be incomplete and much less appealing. Her voice was inviting and interesting, and almost impossible to forget. The band’s harmonization was also worth noting, which only added more to the group’s amazing timbre and stage presence.
Download Mp3 – BRAIDS: “Same Mum”