Albums that concern themselves with the ebb and flow of relationships typically preoccupy themselves with one or the other: the epilogue of an intimacy slipped away or the warmth of a love in flow. The grey areas afterwards prove a trickier subject matter; many artists would shy away from the honest, torn emotions that result from fumbling through a post-relationship haze. It is this that makes Daughter’s debut so striking. The barbed, fractured nature of the lyrics – not to mention the haunted folk on most of the musical vibe – mean that If You Leave has the potential to be a demanding listen, but one that will have you pressing play again the second the final track smoulders to a close.
It takes a certain type of soul to sing so emphatically of trials of the heart and mind, but Elena Tonra never shies away from letting her emotions bleed over every song. The album could easily have turned out as a miserablist’s post-breakup diary entry but the emotional honesty keeps it from veering into self-pity. It’s difficult to pick one example of her keen lyrical ability but when she sings “My eyes are damp from the words you left/Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest” on ‘Youth’, it leaves visual imagery in the mind that’s hard to shake.
There is a folk sensibility to the music that provides the less wrought moments on the album. It is usually short lived, with damp, reverberating percussion reminding you of the turmoil inherent in the lyrics. With every slow paced, quickly plucked acoustic guitar section, lead guitarist Igor Haefeli provides a swell of M83-like electric, lending a beautiful, if often tragic drama to the sound. It brings The xx to mind also, but it’s less exact in the approach – Daughter create the organic counterpart to the other UK trio’s glacial sound.
Tonra’s vocals sound so quietly bruised in the softer moments that you would expect them to be lost amid the storm of guitars and drums as they reach their peak but none of the components over-power one another; her voice matches the impact of each guitar led peak and the damaged mood of the lyrics are mirrored in the creative sounds Haefeli conjures. This may all amount to a not-very-enticing prospect when choosing to pick up the album – and it is shrouded in darkness – but within the darkness there is a definite beauty to the honesty in the lyrics and in the music a perfect representation of their disorder. By the time ‘Shallows’ rises and suddenly falls to a close, you will want to start from the beginning and visit each beautiful heartache again.