Daughter, unfortunately, were pegged from the day ‘Youth’ and ‘Smother’ became semi-successful and climbed the charts. They were pigeonholed as a mopey indie folk band taking inspiration from the XX (whose influence was doing the rounds after 2010) and capitalising on the folk revivalism. We like nothing more than a band previously seen as a dead end completely change their style and carving out their own sound, and that’s exactly what’s happened on Not To Disappear. Where before there was huge gaps of quietness, Daughter have filled it with noise, and not just any kind of mid-pace ambience, but there are genuine moments of noise-rock on Not To Disappear, as hard as that is to imagine for the same band that released ‘Youth’. It’s less commercially-focused, more like Daughter experimenting with what they had already and exploring the empty gaps that they left with If You Leave. Think of Not To Disappear as The Bends to If You Leave‘s Pablo Honey, to use a common comparison. This is the album where Daughter become less like other bands and more like a band of their own.
Take ‘Fossa’, their seven minute (!) song towards the end of the album that switches between what might have crossed their first album with the soft guitar and ambient electronics, but then quickly changes pace as the drums kick in and completely alters into the faster paced songs, which Daughter manage as well as they do in their slow comfort zone. The outro, a three minute one at that, shows Daughter have talent in their cresencdos and instrumental sections, layering twinkling guitars and synths over a more clear-cut set of drums. The lyrics of Elena Tonra have also become much better in the years since their debut album, with their lead single ‘Doing The Right Thing’ shifting Tonra’s perspective away from something more personal and romantically-based and into something much bleaker to match their new music – death, old age and memory. Imagery such as ‘Let the pictures soak out of televisions’ are contrasted with more damning statements like ‘We are built for reproduction’. As lead single, it has a familiar quiet to it in the chorus, which simply features Tonra and bass, but as the verses creep in they fall back onto a dual guitar approach of beautiful melodies and a more distorted underlying guitar, which plays a large part on Not To Disappear.
‘New Ways’ is similarly bleak with its lyrics, where Tonra sings ‘I’m trying to get out / find a subtle way out / not to cross myself out / not just disappear’, which might have been a subtle suicide reference if the song wasn’t about trying to escape from a relationship she can’t help coming back to. The song begins quietly, as you’d expect, but suddenly jars into noisy post-rock expanses partially through the track, which is completely unexpected but they pull it off so well it’s surprising that they haven’t tried the same tack before. On the other end of the spectrum, Daughter mix up the relative slowness of the first half with some faster paced tracks: ‘No Care’, which has the smoothest guitar line of the year so far, and the electro-rock of ‘To Belong’, which has the lyrics ‘I don’t want to belong, to you, to anyone’ and is about wanting to be in a relationship, but discard the owning of each other and explores freedom. The fuzzy bassline comes in halfway that sounds like the grungiest thing Daughter have made, but then they cut it off with silence and shifting drums and a guitar sound that sounds like what Beach House were experimenting on with last years’ Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. It sounds like Daughter made a conscious effort to distance themselves from the blur of tracks on If You Leave and create more variation in the tracklisting by switching between sounds as quickly as possible.
There’s nothing that beats a band completely breaking loose of what they initially were labelled as and Daughter have decided to go in every way possible to escape those labels whilst retaining elements of what made them Daughter and not making some avant-garde electronic album. It’s still Daughter – Tonra’s voice roots them in what they were recognisable as and Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella’s instrumental side of the band is allowed freer reins over what they can put into the music. In that way, it’s more of a group effort as each of the band has a key moment in the album – Aguilella’s drums on ‘Fossa’, Haefeli’s whirlwind of guitars on ‘Alone / With You’ or Tonra’s vocal/guitar simplicity on ‘Made of Stone’. It’s not completely fixed – Tonra’s vocals are recognisable but rarely dramatically alter, which is possibly what contributes to the blurry first half of the album where some of the tracks can be hard to separate. This dramatic alteration of sound might not be as commercially successful, but it’ll probably make Daughter a hell of a lot easier to digest for anyone who heard ‘Youth’ a million times on the radio.
Funnel Recommends: New Ways / To Belong / Fossa