“Blondie” starts with something that sounds like a whimsical sigh. Then playful synth eighth notes come in. The lead singer of BRAIDS, Raphaelle Standell-Preston, sings the first verse in a shy, timid voice. She says, “There is laughter, some disaster, my stepbrother, his blond hair.” It’s a line that leaves me uneasy.
After the verse, the first chorus comes. Standell-Preston’s voice transforms into a powerful declaration. “And I will find a way. And I will leave this place.” She manages to fit in these impressive vocal slides that go to unexpected notes, unexpected wells of strength. Meanwhile, the drums flit and flicker through an insane snare beat. It twitches and snaps, but always remains completely in control of the song.
The determination in the vocals carries over into the second verse, until the very end of it when she says, “There is laughter, some disaster, my stepbrother on the stairs. Touch me so young, make it seem fun, take everything, you don’t care.” Then for the second chorus, she slips back into the seeming meekness that we heard at the beginning of the song.
After we go through a third verse, the song disintegrates into high, keening wails. They climb and climb, stretching to an impossibly high note. And suddenly you realize it’s not a voice anymore. Somewhere in there, it became a synth. The last thing we hear is a final exhalation, whether from relief or exhaustion—I’m not sure—maybe it’s both.
For me, it’s always brave when someone writes about traumatic subject matter. Most people have a hard time even talking about regular, everyday feelings. But when a band writes a song that contains such deeply personal material and then molds it into a form so shatteringly exquisite, I can’t help but to be amazed. The band has tapped into something pure and raw, and the song feels unafraid of its own intensity and ferocious emotion. Each time I listen, I grow more and more in awe of it.
Other songs by BRAIDS that you might enjoy are “Letting Go” and “Getting Tired.”