The former solo project of Elena Tonra, London trio Daughter have released their first full length ‘If You Leave’ on 4AD. Ten tracks of pure gorgeousness, ‘If You Leave’ is reminiscent of the EPs that came before it, but shows a development and sophistication that only comes from working hard and finding your voice. While Tonra was stellar as a singer on her own, the advent of Daughter as a band was a move that cemented the unique and lustrous sound.
I hate to compare Tonra’s voice to Florence Welch, but it’s there, pre-‘Ceremonials’ when Welch was more about the music and less about the power and production. A better comparison would be to replace the electronics from Sia, take away the little girl quality from Regina Spektor, add the evocative lyricism of Evanescence’s Amy Lee and then you would have an idea of Daughter’s sound. They maintain a decidedly delicate tone. Solidly indie, it never veers close enough to singer/songwriter, alt-folk or girl rock for me to give it any of those labels. The folk references might come from an eerie similarity to long ago Suzanne Vega. Perhaps that would be true if Daughter were still a solo effort, but guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella create such a soundscape behind Tonra’s ethereal vocals that it deviates into mysticism rather than folk.
The album opens with positively haunting vocals layering and entwining with the peal of the guitar in the smashing tune ‘Winter’. Replete with the longing of loss, this track sets the tone for the rest of the sparse beauty woven throughout the album. One of the best tracks found on the earlier EPs has thankfully been included on this album. ‘Youth’ is a perfect storm of songwriting, soaring instrumentation and beauty. Despite her youth (yes, pun intended), the maturity of Tonra’s lyrics belies her age: “And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones / ’cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone / we’re setting fire to our insides for fun / collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our home / it was a flood that wrecked this home”.
Simplicity wins out on this album; every track title is a single word. That is not to say that this is a simple album though; it has depth and complexity. I could listen to this album over and over, in fact I have, the EPs too. I think it not only stands up to repeated listening, it builds with each listen. The guitar is delicate, understated, the drumming insistent and evocative, the voice is smooth and layered. With not too much going on at once, you can really hear what they were doing with each layer, flowing and swirling and never, never boring. The build it gives you is satisfying, especially in ‘Human’, the slightly more upbeat track on the album.
This is an absolute stunner of an album. Do yourself a favour and get a hold of it soon. Daughter’s star is on the rise, even the pop luminary Katy Perry recently Tweeted about their music. This spring has Daughter touring Europe and North America, but they’ll be back on home soil for a few quick dates in April; see dates below.
Daughter’s debut effort ‘If You Leave’ is now out on 4AD.
Monday 22nd April 2013 – Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Tuesday 23rd April 2013 – Oxford Town Hall
Wednesday 24th April 2013 – Bournemouth Old Fire Station