If Daughter’s 2013 debut If You Leave was a portrait of lost love and regret then their latest work, Not To Disappear is a dramatic lamentation of something even more upsetting. Dealing with the unnerving subject of elderly onset dementia, the record is unsurprisingly bleak throughout, painting a grim picture of despair and isolation that challenges the listener in new ways. It is not simply an album about the heartache and loneliness, it is about all the horrible feelings, notions and nightmares that come along with it.
From a musical perspective, a lot that worked on their debut, again works here – the soft, wistful vocals, rippling guitar riffs, and ethereal melodies working in tandem to capture the emotional content – but the band have abandoned the more subtle approach in favour of a much larger, more protruding sound, intensely thrusting the album’s often disturbing message upon the listener. The screeching, shoe gazing brilliance of opener ‘New Ways’ sucks you in almost immediately, but the minute Elena Tonra murmurs “I’m trying to get out, find a subtler way out, not to cross myself out, not to disappear” you know you’re in for a very unsettling ride. This message is echoed more forcefully in ‘Numb’ where she repeats ‘You better, you better, you better, make me better!” in a seeming fit of desperation, before descending to even more somber territory on single release ‘Do The Right Thing’ where she blankly asserts that ‘We are built for reproduction”.
All this gears up to the album’s focal point, and essentially the place where all these feelings are originating. ‘Mothers’, deals with the subject on what appears to be a more personal level, bringing back old memories, and prescribing difficult notions. It’s indefatigably depressing stuff, but where the album really excels is in its emotional progression as seen through both the lyrical content and the musical style. Songs like ‘Alone With You’, are the point where despair turns to full-on anger and resentment, feelings that are later fully envisioned on the chaotic, sped-up rhythm of ‘No Care’ the point where all the confused regret comes poring out.
Although there are segments of hope on ‘Fossa’, the most upbeat song on the record both lyrically and rhythmically, Not To Disappear ends on a disheartening note with closing ballad ‘Made of Stone’, the album’s final lyric ‘You’ll find love can’t exist’ acting as the moment of eventual surrender. It’s perhaps the most haunting moment of what is a harrowing, highly challenging, but nonetheless very important record.