daughter – not to disappear

not to disappear
out january 15th via 4ad/glassnote

the framework of daughter has firmly been in place since its inception nearly five years ago: desolate soundscapes paired with lyrical turns that frequently transcend the confessional.  across a handful of early demos and a pair of eps in 2011 – his young heart and the wild youth – elena tonra crafted a persona as intimate as it is accessible, gradually absorbing the timbres and talents of igor haefeli and remi aguilella along the way.  after fully realizing the potential of that structure on 2013’s affecting full-length debut if you leave, daughter decamped to write not to disappear, a gorgeous follow-up that grapples with the ever-evolving turmoils of romance and isolation.

tonra has long been capable of penning devastating lyrics yet delivering them with such disarming consonance; this trait grows exponentially across not to disappear.  the clear frontrunner is “doing the right thing,” a character study of the gradual deterioration due to alzheimer’s – one that achieves peak poignancy through little more than shifting verb tenses – but residual effects are felt throughout the album.

“mothers,” a delicate slow-burning interlude, is a masterclass in conveying the physical pain that can result from unrequited love, and tonra notably channels that pain into vehemence on much of the album’s back half.  self-deprecation morphs into spite towards an absent and inattentive partner (“just a shadowy figure with a blank face / kicking me out of his place”) on “alone/with you,” a sentiment that tonra doubles down on just two songs later, stating “i don’t want to belong / to you, to anyone” with newfound conviction.

impeccable lyricism is arguably the most integral cog in daughter’s machine, but the trio makes strides in combatting the musical homogeneity that can accompany such a niche thematic area.  both haefeli and aguilella figure more prominently into each song’s direction; aguilella especially, as percussion propels tracks like “fossa” and “no care” into previously uncharted territories.  daughter also juxtaposes the convenient ambience that can quickly envelop sadness with tracks that flat-out groove (see: “how” and “to belong”) while “no care” is the closest analog to punk rock that this outfit has ever – and most likely will ever – pull off.

not to disappear reads as a composite sketch for an entire spectrum of daughter fans.  those seeking sparse moments of introspection will find solace in “made of stone” and “numbers,” while tracks like “how” and “fossa” will sate the appetites of others yearning to hear the band explore new sonic territories.  it’s a highly impressionable album at first glance, and the weight of its wintery despondency gradually seeps into your core with each subsequent listen.

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daughter – if you leave

i’m happy that this album is finally available in north america.  i’ve been following daughter since early last year, when the london trio began picking up steam and recognition on this side of the atlantic.  still, the band’s media presence is just about as low-key as the music they create, and those are the two aspects i enjoy the most.  led by elena tonra, daughter craft morose and hauntingly ethereal songs that provide the perfect backdrop to sleepy wisconsin winters and long walks in the snow.  with a collection of demos and two superb eps under their belt, daughter was poised to take the next step and procure a more cohesive offering of their capabilities.

rumblings about if you leave began surfacing as early as last fall, when the band released a new song entitled “smother” backed with a reworked version of an early demo, “run.”  after disappearing for another short stretch, daughter confirmed that they were putting the finishing touches on their debut album and that if you leave would be available in mid-march.  this was followed by the release of another single, “still,” along with an accompanying music video.

 

armed with two very strong lead-in singles, daughter confirmed my suspicions; they were only going to get better.  if you leave contains ten one-name tracks, including fully realized versions of early demos like “tomorrow” and “shallows,” as well as a reworked version of “youth,” my favorite song off of their stellar the wild youth ep.  upon simply gazing at the tracklist, cause for concern due to repetition was initially felt, but these songs feel fresh, with new arrangements and more confident vocals and ensemble presence felt throughout.  the flow and contrast of if you leave is greatly aided by “human,” a standout track that feels positively upbeat in comparison with the rest of the band’s repertoire.

the absence of love is not absent from the core of if you leave, as reflected in the album’s title itself.  tonra still masterfully sings about solitude and bleak outlooks on life; “touch” finds her almost begging for physical contact, confessing “i’m dreaming of strangers/kissing me in the night/ just so i can feel something.”  the album title sneaks into its finale track, a reworked and substantially longer version of “shallows,” originally the opening song on a collection of early daughter demos.  it’s fitting that their catalogue would come full-circle, and in such an eloquent fashion.

9.0/10