Not To Disappear
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A masterclass in melodic, melancholic dream-pop, Daughter’s 2013 debut album If You Leave is one of the most spellbinding song suites to emerge in the past few years. Indeed, the London-based trio’s acclaimed first long player introduced their penchant for unraveling the fragmentation and fragility of the human experience without embellishment, while crafting songs of the most stunning caliber. And while Elena Tonra’s plaintive yet quietly powerful vocals proved the driving force behind the band’s stark emotion, the lush arrangements supplied by guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella solidified the group’s irresistible allure.
Composed in London and recorded in Brooklyn, Daughter’s sophomore effort Not To Disappear embraces its precursor’s sonic and thematic foundations, but the band’s pathos is now coupled with a more discernible depth and sincerity. Tonra recently confided to Interview magazine that “This record is a bit more aggressive and lyrically, I think it's a bit more straightforward. I don't think there's as much poetic license or hiding places within my lyrics. It's quite direct about my feelings.” Revered for his work with Animal Collective, Deerhunter and The War on Drugs, among others, French producer Nicolas Vernhes has extracted an even richer sound from the threesome, contributing to the heightened gravity that pervades the record.
The pair of singles released from the album to date showcase the more palpable vulnerability and emotional complexity the band has cultivated since If You Leave. Inspired by her grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, Tonra laments the debilitating toll that dementia exacts upon the disease’s sufferers and their families on the gripping “Doing the Right Thing.” Adopting the sufferer’s perspective, the imagery she conjures in the song’s chorus is heartbreaking, as she sings “Then I'll lose my children / Then I'll lose my love / Then I'll sit in silence / Let the pictures soak / Out of televisions / Float across the room / Whisper into one ear / And out the other one.” Whereas the lead single explores involuntary emotional detachment at the hands of neurodegeneration, the somber “Numbers” delves into more self-imposed strains of disenchantment and the yearning to find one’s identity by connecting with others.
Although the 10-track album demands to be digested as a cohesive whole, there are a handful of tracks that stand out. The disquieting “Mothers” offers sobering commentary on post-partum depression. “To Belong” is a grinding dirge about liberating yourself from a crippling relationship in order to “be better off.” The caustic “Alone/With You” confronts the internal conflict of whether being alone or attached is more redemptive for the soul, with Tonra ultimately gravitating toward the former. Imbued with shimmering guitar and rolling bass riffs that contain Pixies-like flourishes, the solemn “How” explores the agony inflicted by unfulfilled love.
Few bands working today make exorcising one’s demons sound as sublime as Daughter does. It’s refreshing to hear Tonra so eloquently externalize the anguish that so many of us feel deep down inside, but are often too reluctant to divulge. Her introspective ruminations and emotional honesty are reassuring, offering glimmers of hope that solace can indeed be found amidst whatever it is that torments us. Bolstered by her bandmates’ atmospheric, intricately-woven soundscapes, Not To Disappear is a poetically poignant statement from a band that shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.
Notable Tracks: “Alone/With You” | “Doing the Right Thing” | “How” | “Numbers”
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