If You Leave is the much-anticipated full-length album from Daughter, the London-based trio of Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella. After a speedy rise to success through word-of-mouth and a loyal, devoted fan base, it’s been a busy couple of years for Tonra, who began Daughter as a solo project, and her bandmates. Three EPs and a couple of singles down the line, they are now signed to 4AD and have appeared on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack and an advert for [insert pretty much any airline name here]. The reason for this is that they make the sort of haunting, evocative music that seems appropriate accompanying images of doctors having nervous breakdowns and planes shooting across the sky, the sort of music that makes people pause and Google things to find out who made it and where they can listen to it again.
Youth, a track from their previous release The Wild Youth EP, is a highlight. It’s focused and well-structured, Tonra’s gentle and precise vocal line and brilliant lyrics propelling the song forward to a real climax. Human and Winter are also strong tracks, each making full use of Aguilella’s impressive drumming and drawing a bit of fight into the record which is lacking elsewhere. Aside from some moments of teenage angst, the lyrics are generally arresting and believable, which creates diversity atop a fairly rigid accompaniment.
The album has a sound so consistent that it can feel overbearing. Blurry guitar lines mesh with reverb-heavy harmonised vocals to create a thick mesh, at times frustrating for its lack of purpose and its headiness; this happens at some point on most tracks, but Amsterdam and Tomorrow are most notable for this sticky, melting haze of sound. Daughter are known for their dark take on unsuccessful love and the ensuing loneliness, which is fine, obviously, given the theme’s popularity over the centuries, but a little more respite from the failure, hopelessness and musical oppression would be welcome.
If You Leave will not make you feel joyous unless you’re looking for a soundtrack to a life crisis. It will bring pleasure in its own ways: the bold and honest decision to stick to the darkness and the lows and never venture too far into the light; the achingly beautiful moments of silence and serenity amidst the heavy and tumultuous rest; the false momentum that builds in songs which we know will never reach a positive conclusion; the occasional unexpected and perfectly-placed set of words. There is an awful lot to like about this album, but in small doses. A non-stop listen makes for a swimming mind and a raincloud above the head.