27 January, 2016

[ALBUM REVIEW] Daughter - Not To Disappear

January may be the bleakest part of the year: full of post-Christmas dejection, wet and windy weather, sometimes snow and ice, and in 2016, the devastating loss of some of the world’s most innovative geniuses.

With the bleak days of winter in mind, many would argue that it is the perfect month for a Daughter resurgence. Debut If You Leave went hand-in-hand with a permeating dark, fragile, and ghostly nature about the arrangements. However, despite the obvious continuation of the underlying sense of sadness, the subtlety and serenity of the first album is not brought through to 2016. Rather, new album Not To Disappear is much bigger; bringing with it extra dynamism and ambition.

Nestling away after touring their 2013 debut, the indie folk trio have certainly taken their time about this, their second and superior record. Whilst cleverly maintaining the gripping melancholy and gossamer constructions that we fell in love with, the band have pushed away from the “frozen hearts” Elena Tonra lyrics (which has been sometimes criticised and described as a hushed and departed take on idols Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley) and centred their new sound around Remi Aguiella’s drums. Very much like The XX, I feel, Daughter are meticulous. They won’t drastically change genres or scrap guitars for keyboards in order to gain attention; it’s more of a working progress. Not To Disappear seems like just a platform to the next, and on the way the band will clip, carve and sculpt their way to a perfect masterpiece.

Created at both Cable Street studios in London and in New York (working with Nicolas Vernhes [Animal Collective, War on Drugs]), there is a sense of bustle and commotion which couples the routine plethora of feelings. At times, we feel immersed in Tonra’s unashamed “sad person brain” and affinity to humanity; while in others we are hit straight between the eyes with frenetic indie, thumping post-rock, glum shoegaze, and sparkling dream-pop. Culminating in a delicious cocktail. Maybe not as smooth and as consistent as before; but leaving a spicy kick and warrant us to try some more.

Opener ‘New Ways’ welcomes you like an old friend, holding you and not letting you go – just as beautiful as before, but with a new found edge. The simplicity of a recurrent drum beat and an unassuming reverb runs through the song as it picks up the breadcrumbs left behind by If You Leave. Following this is the lead track ‘Numbers’, which opens with a mysterious deadpan sneer – “Take the worst situations / Make a worse situation” – and is quickly trailed by an insensitive note on the filthy charm of “pulling” culture. “I’ll wash my mouth but still taste you”, Tonra laments before peacefully echoing the hook like “I fell numb in this kingdom”. What’s impressive is the preservation of the intimacy, despite a quickly evolving and somewhat wild (by Daughter’s standards) beat similar to something heard on a Florence & the Machine record. Swiftly after is arguably one of the best tracks on the record, ‘Doing The Right Thing’ – the single released at the end of last year. It plays out like a masterpiece of existential narrative that wouldn’t be out of place in a cult classic film, or as backing to a rolling scene in theatre. We are met with powerful lyrics, nostalgic guitars and an overall pared-back composition. What is surprising is the realisation that Tonra is speaking as the voice of an Alzeimer’s sufferer. With lyrics such as “I have lost my children, I have lost my love, I just sit in silence, let the pictures soak out of televisions”, it’s probably something you won’t want to listen to on a hungover morning or when emotionally delicate.

Rolling through the mid-section, ‘How’ swings back and forth in providing the closest thing to an anthem, while ‘Mothers’ is accurately placed to give us a half time break. Slow and heart-breaking, it bridges the gap between the real slog of mundanity, and the potency of memories when times are dreary. Through a bold, developing theme of motherhood, it is only fair that we are treated to relationship references – whether this be the challenge of emotional distance (‘Alone/With You’), the now ordinary insecurities (‘To Belong’), or both as seen in ‘No Care’: “Oh, there has been one time where we fucked, and I felt like a bad memory”. ‘No Care’ is a mixed bag, upping the tempo at an odd time, and briefly getting drowned out by exuberant backing percussion. However, ‘To Belong’ brings us a perfect fusion of the seamless suffocation we loved on If You Leave and a new grime and determination in the form of dissipating grooves.

Personal favourite, ‘Fossa’, unlike its anatomical name sake, is not hollow and overly depressing. Effortlessly crafted layers are piled up in a precise manner to take you on one final journey, leaving you unable to nod and tap along wherever you may be. Closer ‘Made of Stone’ takes us back to 2013, in a comforting yet dark release: the calm after the storm.

Growing in stature, Daughter show a growing brewing in this second album. An organism, that certainly knows itself better. An organism with a future to evolve and emerge as a more vibrant being.

Daughter – Not To Disappear

Out of 10: 8.2/10

Written by – Richard Maver (@richmaver)