Desolate, bleak and bruised, welcome to the icy tundra that is Daughter. The London trio are offering up their heart-wrenching debut album, If You Leave, this month. Ten songs constructed from brittle orchestration and Elena Tonra’s rich, emotive vocal, all of which tread the common ground of doomed love.
Daughter began as a solo vehicle for Elena Tonra, however the vocalist was soon joined by guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella to transform Daughter into a fully fledged band. The blueprint to If You Leave seems to be that a song commences with a solitary guitar riff and then Tonra’s velvet vocal waft into play. From here the barebones are built upon with added electronics which in turn coaxes out a heady steam of noise.
‘Lifeforms’ is a good example of this, fragile initially but slowing expanding into a crescendo driven whir of static. ‘Touch’ is another song in the same mould with its rush of blood to the head drums and skittering beats.
The underlying aesthetic of the band’s debut is with the album’s lyrics, all of which encompass the themes of tortured love and misguided ventures of the heart. ‘Smother’ mutters “I want him/but we’re not right”, while the aforementioned ‘Touch’ begins with “love hunt me down/I can’t stand to be so dead behind the eyes”. Album opener ‘Winter’ illustrates the psyche of If You Leave with it’s first line “drifting apart like two sheets of ice/frozen hearts grow colder”. The only track to break the trend is ‘Human’ although the overwrought themes are still there, Daughter add an extra layer of resilience to their wares attributed to the stomping drums and upfront guitars. Despite all the sorrow contained in If You Leave, ‘Human’ acts like a slight glimmer of positivity. Equally, closing track ‘Shallows’ feels at first more optimistic than what has come before. Tonra is heard murmuring “dry your smoke stung eyes/so you can see the light” in a note of uplifting simplicity. The album draws to a close like a pin being slowly prodded into a balloon, time being the only factor until it all goes bang. The upbeat narrative is short lived once our front woman finishes off with “come out to the sea and drown with me”, is this a bid to start a fresh or the last macabre note to If You Leave?
If You Leave is a well constructed record with contrasting elements that weave and ricochet off one another plus Tonra’s vocal is effortless when delivering her damaged lyrics. However the underlying notions of despair coupled with the album’s forlorn execution can feel a little too much to bear at times with little respite on offer.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams