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.

chvrches – every open eye

every open eye cover
out september 25th via glassnote

chvrches have always made it a point to exceed expectations.  their strong early offerings landed them both consistent critical acclaim and a record deal with a major label subsidiary, and the glaswegian trio embarked on an ostensibly exhausting world tour following the rave reviews of the bones of what you believe.

lauren mayberry sang pristine hooks over equally-pristine synth arrangements, songs swelled to pre-chorus heights before exploding into the mind-boggling refrain itself, and despite this meticulous attention to detail and production, most of bones retained a raw, emotive component not readily available on the surface of most synth-pop albums.  chvrches spent six months writing and recording every open eye earlier this year, an ambitious follow-up that chases the highs of its predecessor.

it’s a sensible practice to emulate a previous success, but chvrches toe the surprisingly fine line between emulation and replication.  “never ending circles” opens forcefully and soon crests to a chorus as titanic as the trio has ever penned, though the track reads as a slight misdirection.  the strength of “leave a trace” tides the album over for a bit longer, but every open eye eventually wavers dangerously close to mediocrity, a territory previously foreign to chvrches.

nevermind that “make them gold” has a title that seems to exclusively pander to this generation’s optimistic hashtag users; the song’s delivery is flawed, its vocal pacing sophomoric, and the refrain’s melodic contour – arguably the most crucial component of a chvrches song – is painful, a glaring misstep that somehow survived the cutting-room floor.  “make them gold” joins “empty threat” as the chief byproducts of a recording period that was a bit rushed and ultimately suffered from bouts of tunnel vision.  the anthems that dotted bones were almost accidental in magnitude, and chvrches certainly don’t bat a thousand when trying to capitalize on their arena-caliber potential this time around.

it’s a shame that those blemishes are placed at very strategically poor points on the album, because every open eye does host some of chvrches’ finest work to date.  “clearest blue” is the sprawling centerpiece that bones decidedly lacked, and martin doherty’s lead vocal on “high enough to carry you over” makes it one of the album’s most compelling components.  the final third of every open eye is more indicative of the pop anthems chvrches are now capable of constructing, and both “playing dead” and “bury it” tweak the trio’s tried and true songwriting blueprint to refreshing results.

by the time “afterglow” hits, chvrches have completed another victory lap, albeit one less smooth than previously experienced.  every open eye avoids the sophomore slump and provides chvrches with sufficient material for an even more massive tour, but it also suggests that the band should tread lightly and spend considerably more time on their subsequent output.  luck won’t always be on their side.