The music of Braids blends skittering drums, cavernous synths, and idiosyncratic vocals into a beguiling mix of music that's equal parts grounded and otherworldly. While the Canadian trio's first two albums leaned on creating amorphous atmospheres, Braids' third album, Deep In the Iris, sees the band taking a bold step toward emotional directness, with vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston eschewing her once oblique lyrics for frank and powerful songwriting that tackles topics like abuse, vulnerability, and slut-shaming. The result is an album whose sonic prowess is equally matched by its emotional content.
But no matter the genre, Braids drummer Austin Tufts appreciates music with a deep emotional connection. He spoke to The Week via email about his recent obsession with soul music, and made us a playlist of six of his favorite soul songs. "These songs seem to transcend situational appropriateness," Tufts said. "They represent a rare breed of song, one that can be played at any time of day, during any type of activity and totally fit the bill. There is heartache, love, and loss in these songs, the universal truths that everyone has felt." Below, six songs that Tufts hope will move your soul, and maybe even your feet:
1. Sam Cooke, "Having a Party"
"I recently moved into a new place with some close friends and one of the most defining characteristics of our home has definitely become the large and very diverse vinyl collection that we amassed as the three of us. There are always new albums on the turntable and I've been checking out lots of new music. The first time I heard Sam Cooke I couldn't believe how sweet and soothing his voice was, and that it took me until I was 25 to hear these songs. This song paints such a vivid picture in my head of a community hall dance party in the early 60s, Cokes in the cooler, and couples twisting all night long."
2. Al Green, "I'm Still In Love With You"
"Oddly enough, the first thing that strikes me about this song is the fantastic hi-hat playing. Even so, it's Al Green's rhythmic sense as a singer that really sets him apart for me. He is so expressive with his phrasing, and the way he shortens up and lengthens out words to make his singing lay in the pocket is totally unique to him. This song will always be a classic for me, and over the years I've found it to be an appropriate soundtrack for just about every moment in a day."
3. Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, "Where Is The Love"
"Another pick from the depths of my roommates' record collection. I realized when I first put on The Best of Roberta Flack that I knew every song without ever having heard the album before. I had no idea [Flack] was the original performer of so many standards and hit songs. This duet in particular is a gem."
4. D'Angelo, "Send It On"
"This is one one of my favorite songs to play drums to. Questlove's drumming on this is perfect, especially the way he plays his kick drum — so tight and propulsive, the rest of the groove just lays back onto it. D'Angelo's harmonies are always brilliant, but on this track they're untouchable, so off the cuff and natural. This track really feels like a group of brilliant musicians getting together and riffing for six minutes, effortless."
5. Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine"
"The strings, the strings, the strings. Seriously, whoever arranged the strings for this song killed it. After the first stanza of Bill Withers, we're all listening thinking, 'Damn, what a voice, how could this get any better?' and pow! These strings just flood the mix and a masterpiece takes shape. I can't think of many songs that execute such a concise and strong vision in just 2 minutes."
6. Little Milton, "Packed Up And Took My Mind"
"About two years ago I was in a record store and I saw an album called The RZA Presents Shaolin Soul Collection, Volume 1. The collection features songs that inspired and/or were sampled by Wu-Tang Clan. I regret not buying it every time I walk into a record shop because I am always looking for it again. I know nothing about Little Milton other than that this song is a serious JAM. Great beat, great horns, amazing voice, and the perfect way to close off this playlist."
Deep In the Iris is out now on Arbutus Records.
(This interview was condensed and edited by Samantha Rollins.)
Listen to "Miniskirt" by Braids below:
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