Album Review: Daughter – Stereo Mind Game

Daughter’s new record Stereo Mind Game opens with a track simply called ‘Intro’; it’s initially indiscernible, gradually adopting an ethereal cadence and organically manufacturing mysterious nuances, perhaps as you’d expect from a band synonymous with the darker recesses of the soul. As the layers increase, a cinematic majesty embraces the listener before retreating back to a serene state, eventually being replaced by brilliant first single ‘Be On Your Way’, renewing our relationship with Elena, Igor and Remi. There may be a breathy familiarity in these opening moments, but also something anomalous. Previous records were stark in their use of quite violent imagery but on this quite lovely song, there’s a sense of contemplation over reaction. Could there be a more sanguine approach to this collection of songs, the band’s first album (not counting the mostly instrumental soundtrack album Music from Before the Storm) since Not to Disappear an incredible seven years ago?

If you’re perturbed by this, fear not. Whilst the band definitely seem to have introduced some sweeping incandescence in these opening moments, the brilliant ‘Party’ manages to reduce the colour to something more monochromatic. So far then, there’s a dichotomy on display and this seems to be a lyrical choice as well as a musical one. The distortion of the debut record and the sharp-as-glass tones of Not to Disappear have made way for something more graceful.

The brisk acoustic guitar and more animated vocal pace of ‘Dandelion’ disguise the darker, evocative tones that align with Elena’s propensity for revealing home truths; the quirky rhythmic undertones add to the more jaunty moments and it is in these beats when the album soars. ‘Neptune’ manages to break through an initially bereft ceiling of despair to once again feel liberated by the song’s fluid, choral conclusion. ‘Swim Back’ restores the record’s more eccentric musicality amidst its positive melody-led qualities.

A montage of phone call messages reinforce the theme of connection and disconnection before the album’s home stretch brings to mind the cinematic qualities of Explosions in the Sky. There’s a choral majesty in moments like ‘To Rage’ before the final track reinforces the overriding polarity on display.

As the album progresses you realise there is a distinctive ebb and flow to this idiosyncrasy. Bursts of energetic reflection are countered by subtle bouts of more introvert cogitation. Elena’s vocals have appear to have mellowed to accommodate these concepts. This creates a darkly hypnotic soundscape but one that ultimately revitalises. We’ve never said that about Daughter before.

Iain Fox