Album Review: Daughter – ‘Not to Disappear’

Back in 2012, I was watching a very intense episode of The Vampire Diaries when this hauntingly beautiful song, Smother was played in the background and I instantly fell in love with the song and the band that is, Daughter. Fast forward another two years and I got the amazing opportunity to see the English band play at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival and their debut album, If You Leave instantly was the soundtrack for my bus rides to and from University. So as you can see, their sophomore release was my most anticipated album for 2016, which I was quite nervous to listen to in case it did not live up to my expectations. The indie folk band was formed back in 2010 with North Londoner, Elena Tonra on vocals, Swiss-born, Igor Haefeli on guitars and French-born Remi Aguilella on drums. Daughter released the first single, Doing The Right Thing, from their second album, Not To Disappear, back in September last year and followed it up with Numbers in November with their album released on the 15th of January.

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Not To Disappear opens with New Ways, a track that slowly creeps up on you, opening with swirling synths and Elena’s inaudible, uneasy howling vocals. The track builds to a corrosive, guitar solo with intense layering that immediately tells you that this record is taking a step back from the poetic lyrics and focusing on the band as a whole. Their debut release, If You Leave is at the core of it, a break-up record that is so honest and comes from such a genuine place that it would be quite hard to replicate it for the second time round since Elena is in a happy relationship with her boyfriend. Their second single off the album comes next, with Numbers, which is hauntingly ambient with thriving bass, atmospheric synths and melancholic vocals. ‘I feel numb in this kingdom,’ is repeated over percussion that is quite similar to the drum lines in Youth off If You Leave.

Doing The Right Thing is probably the track that makes the album, which I would definitely not recommend listening to if you or someone you know is experiencing dementia. Doing The Right Thing is written in the perspective of an elderly individual and their journey through dementia – inspired by Elena’s grandmother and the mental decline in the elderly. With heart wrenching lyrics such as, ‘I’ll call out in the night for my mother/ but she isn’t coming back for me/ cause she’s already gone,’ with Elena exploring concepts of life and death and an observation of family and reproduction. With the chilling exploration of the elderly’s fragile mental state, with emotional lyrics such as, ‘I’m just fearing one day soon/ I’ll lose my mind.’ Elena’s vocals sit on a bed of ambient percussion with electric guitars that switch from soft to heavy, to emphasize the lyrics. Distorted synths are joined with the instrumental during the beginning of the track which fades to pair the vocals with a sole, sombre guitar.

Mothers is quite striking, as it opens with soft, audio fragments with the humming of Elena’s vocals and slow, corrosive guitars creeping in. It is another song that explores the family cycle, with lyrics about the emotional and physical pressures of motherhood, “the provider of that constant sting they call love.” My favourite track off the album is definitely, Alone – With You, with Daughter almost mocking the loneliness and sadness that is the subject of almost all of their songs. You almost want to laugh with Elena’s satirical line, ‘I hate living alone/ I should get a dog or something.’ The track repeats itself throughout the song, except replacing the words ‘with you’ and ‘alone,’ essentially sharing that you can be dissatisfied whether or not you have someone. Accompanying the sarcasm that is evident throughout the track, the production in Alone – With You is quite different to the rest of the album, with an uneasy, pulsing beat and twinkling soundscape. Alone – With You, shows Daughter step outside the structure that is quite consistent throughout this album and last.

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Following Alone – With You, is another track that tries something different than the style of their first album. No Care is quite clearly the fastest song that they have ever written and the shortest on the record. Opening with chaotic drums and twangy, cruisy electric guitars and upbeat, vibrating synths. In comparison to their more slow burning tracks, No Care takes on an angst similar to pop punk bands. The entire song is at a quick pace that creates a sense of anxiety as the drum lines are as fast as a racing heartbeat. Again, Daughter have creatively provoked emotions and feelings in the listener except this time the instruments are at the forefront instead of the poetic vocals.

The last two tracks on the record are Fossa and Made Of Stone. Fossa feels like a rollercoaster, as the track shifts tempo and time signature throughout the track, it feels like that point on a rollercoaster when your stomach is all of a sudden in your mouth. The track quickly snaps from an ethereal soundscape, with quiet, steady guitars to fast, drum lines with smashing clash of cymbals. Fossa is the longest track off Not To Disappear with Elena’s voice fading out three minutes with the rest of the track embracing the instrumental talent of the rest of the band. Made Of Stone leaves the album on quite a delicate, ominous note with gentle guitars and bass line and soft, humming vocals. It is kind of an unnecessary track, but it leaves the listener in such an empty, gloomy state that it kind of begs for more.

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Overall, Not To Disappear is an amazing album that explores themes of loneliness, life and death and family. Daughter have kept their style quite consistent except for a few more experimental tracks and the lyrics taking quite a side step, with a focus on the band as a whole. Daughter have a way with evoking emotions in the listener and it is quite evident throughout this album. Daughter are on the bill for Barcelona’s Primavera Sounds Festival and United States’ Bonnaroo Festival, so hopefully this means they will be taking a trip down under for our 2016’s festival season.

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