Published Jun 18, 2020Braids' sound has changed between each of their full-length releases, with Raphaelle Standell-Preston's voice and lyrics steadily growing in prominence in the mix. Shadow Offering takes this further, offering a direct and personal album which will please fans of tracks like "Taste" and "Miniskirt" from 2015's Deep in the Iris.
The aforementioned "Miniskirt" seem in many ways a blueprint for this record; Shadow Offering features many direct references to feminist and activist ideas and uses strong imagery to drive them home. On "Fear of Men" this functions quite well, as men are told, "Wake up, I'm doing all the labour," punctuated with the image of both the singer and women in general being pushed "against a brick wall."
Instrumentally, there is much less guitar and the drum fills are less intense and central, with synth patterns taking up a stronger position in the rhythm section instead. This makes the pace slower: "Ocean" and "Here 4 U" touch on singer-songwriter balladry, and serve as effective torch songs.
The exception to this trend is "Snow Angel." The longest and central track of the album, "Snow Angel" is anchored by a long section that combines singing and spoken word with a steady, krautrock drum beat and some gentle finger-picked melodies. The poem itself toes a delicate line, at first verging on cliché — "a polar bear floating away on an ice floe," "fake news and indoctrination" — while a bit naïve and navel-gazing with lines like "am I just realizing the injustice that exists." It ultimately builds in intensity to a place of raw honesty and frustration with one's inability to change things, building into a strong climax.
Listeners' reactions to the poem will likely match the way they feel about Shadow Offering. Standell-Preston seems to be in a tricky space as an artist, where she is aware and critical of her role as a white and privileged person in society, but her most effective way to speak about this about this is through a band which she fronts. Fans of Braids and those interested in the kinds of personal, political and artistic struggles this work deals with will enjoy spending time with this new record.