When London-based Daughter first emerged in 2013 with their ice-cool debut If You Leave, their music became ubiquitous to the broken hearted. Elena Tonra’s insightful and damaged perceptions of romance providing the chilled soul and presence that made Daughter stand-out from nocturne contemporaries like The XX.
If You Leave was the template for Daughter’s simple, minimalist songs, but Not to Disappear sets a precedent for storytelling. It’s a smoky, late-night journey delivered with emotion and intimacy that masks a deep seriousness.
Opening track New Ways proves a gentle curtain raiser, played out to moody electronica. Tonra taking the opportunity to dismiss the notion that three years on from her debut, the heartache has subsided.
“I’ve been trying to stay out/ But there’s something in you/ I can’t be without,” she sings. Hers is a voice that creaks and moans, in raspy, breathless lines, punctuated by numbness every bit as proficiently as Hope Sandoval. As she unmasks sentiment, the band build around the track, filling the void with swirls of layers, space and simple chord changes.
Nicholas Vernhe’s co-production with guitarist Igor Haefeli and their minimal execution reacquaints listeners with expressive gently picked guitar lines, a tasteful mist of reverb and Numbers and Alone/With You sound like undiscovered tracks from their debut, built out of a synthetic bassline and simple throb.
Elsewhere Mothers breaks up the litany and exaggerates the role Tonra has taken to elevate the album moving beyond the treble-heavy Sigur Rós riffs, keyboard ostinatos and vignette song structures of the past. As she sings about the subject of motherhood – “that constant sting they call love,” – Daughter pull off the difficult task of self-awareness that proves they’re not a one trick pony, seamlessly seguing into a different noir direction. As the chorus shuffles in Tonra’s searching questions disjoint with heartache.
There is so little sound here and yet so much atmosphere, punctuated throughout by the flutter of percussion and new elements adding a richness and depth. Doing the Right Thing, the first single that heralded the album, was an accurate precursor: the mood here is sombre.
Haefeli has said that live the songs were becoming “rockier” following a stint on tour with Ben Harper, and this self-assured tone is more pronounced this time round. While reverb still forms around the guitars on tracks Numbers and Fossa it’s tighter and more refrained, giving a haunted tone.
Ultimately, the album is about depth, each moment slow, expansive and atmospheric. In their appropriately small-scale way, the longing, weary resignation puts to shame other contemporaries like Widowspeak or Beach House who haven’t quite achieved the same level of distinction – yet.
There is enough of a subtle move from their much loved original sound into moving beyond the limitations of the first album. While still background, lean-in intimately mood music, the romantic ache gives an additional bite that stays with the listener.
Daughter have succeeded on connecting on a deeply emotional level while simultaneously maintaining their aloof distance. While bands like London Grammar, Lucy Rose and Lana Del Ray come close to creating that innocuous texture, it is Daughter that pull at the heart strings.
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