The early part of the decade saw a rise in atmospheric, brooding ‘rock’ bands. The XX, who won the Mercury Prize in 2010, gave credence to this rise being more than just a passing trend, and out of their shadow stepped Daughter, a trio of musicians, much like the XX, but peddling a different style. Whereas the XX favour the use of Jamie XX’s mastery of dance and electronics, Daughter are more nuanced; the focus is on Elena Tonra’s hushed vocal delivery, guitarist Igor Haefeli’s sonic landscapes, and drummer Remi Aguilella’s balanced work. Not To Disappear comes three years after the release of their debut LP, If You Leave, and builds upon the successful foundations laid down on that record.
Opening with the deceptively titled New Ways, Daughter ease the listener back into their wintery, almost ethereal world; the thud of the drum machine jarring against the swirling guitar line, Tonra’s vocals almost dreamlike in their delivery. Sonically, it is as dense as the band can get, and the tension built up throughout continues with the lead single Numbers, which gives Tonra centre stage, the refrain ‘I feel numb/I feel numb in this kingdom’ seemingly a declaration of an emotional void.
Doing the Right Thing has an ample amount of light and shade to bring the listener up for air, sonically, although a close inspection to Tonra’s lyrics sees her describing the descent of dementia sufferers, the feeling of helplessness, the structure of the mind slowing changing, the regression towards childhood. As Tonra sings ‘ I have lost my children/I have lost my love/I just sit in silence/let the pictures soak/out of televisions…. the struggle people face, daily, with this disease, is vocalised and said aloud. The title itself- Doing the Right Thing – lends many questions without answers. With a disease such as Dementia, ‘The Right Thing’ to do by people is discussed often. Daughter handle the issue with care and delicacy, in the process producing a form of catharsis.
It isn’t all sombre subject matter and a dense sonic palate; the punky, driving beat of No Care is a volte-face, Tonra spiky in her barbs towards a lover, perhaps, or an ex, or a friend. ‘I’m too drunk to fight/I only wanted you to come so we could make love’ shouted over a snarebeat so incessant wouldn’t be out of place in a nightclub. The rise in tempo matches the descent into the fugue of drunkenness, and the lack of resolve to deal with problems sensibly.
Not To Disappear ends with Made Of Stone, the dense soundscapes dropped for something more reflective. A softly-plucked electric guitar provides warmth, the drums rolling in the distance, the listener being sent on their way, emotionally lighter than they were 48 minutes previous.
If, If You Leave was designed to act as a suitable introduction to what Daughter are about, Not To Disappear builds upon its success and adds the clarity, the emotional light and shade that was somewhat lacking in the first LP. This is a band who are pushing the boundaries of that ‘atmospheric, brooding guitar rock’ and forging their own path. On this showing, it a path laden with musical delights, and should set them on the way to becoming not just ‘another band’, but Daughter, the band that trail blazed the way for future bands to come.