With Elena Tonra’s distinctive choir-esque talents and detached approach to life in her songwriting, Daughter are definitely the dark horses of 2016. Their 2013 debut album If You Leave utilised in-depth storytelling and minimalistic escalations in songs, captivating a modest yet loyal audience. Their sound and format may have drawn more than a few comparisons with the platinum-selling London Grammar, whose debut If You Wait (even their album names are very nearly the same) was released in the same year as Daughter’s. But while London Grammar have had widespread success due to their commercial appeal, Daughter’s darker edge makes them the far more interesting group of the two.
New album Not To Disappear only advances on where If You Leave left off, and it’s beautiful, beautiful stuff. Tonra’s gorgeous vocals go hand in hand with her and Igor Haefeli’s swooping guitar parts. The results are haunting, thought-provoking and emotional, especially in lead single Doing The Right Thing. Told from the perspective of Tonra’s grandmother who suffers from dementia, it feels like pretty groundbreaking territory as it’s a topic that rarely sees the light of day in music. Lyrics like “I’ll call out in the night for my mother / but she isn’t coming back for me” really hit home, and it’s a perfect example of how Tonra’s lyrics are more like poetry which can lift your heart and shatter it in a matter of seconds. The thought-provoking Mothers and hopelessly analytic album closer Made Of Stone also have this vein running through them, and even more seemingly direct quips like “I hate walking alone / I should get a dog or something” are impossible not to scrutinise for a deeper meaning.
And the music itself complements the vibe of the lyrics completely. The majority of tracks begin slowly and softly, eventually creating an enticing lush texture that’s all too easy to get lost in, especially with Elena’s voice at the helm. All too often, the song gets to four minutes in without you even realising. It leaves you shaking your head and wondering how the hell you didn’t notice, and that’s the magic of this album. It’s the best to fall asleep to, in the best way possible.
And although the chill side of Not To Disappear does get a bit samey in the likes of To Belong, there’s enough to stop complete boredom. The guitar-fronted No Care is by far the most different track here, showcasing an extremely welcome rockier edge to Daughter. And Fossa, clocking in at just under seven minutes long, ascends from more of the same to a mostly instrumental, synth-fuelled epic.
It must be stressed, though, that Not To Disappear is by no means for everyone. It’s very very likely that a lot of listeners may find this record dreary and be put off by the lack of noticeable changes in dynamics. But those accustomed to more calm, progressive pieces of music may fall in love with this all too easily. This ten track collection can only be described as a thing of beauty – it’s probably an insult to call it anything less.
For fans of: London Grammar, Ben Howard, Alt-J
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Not To Disappear’ by Daughter is out now on 4AD.