Album Review – “If You Leave” by Daughter

Annie Hwang, Editor-in-Chief

There is nothing too complex about this little British trio – singer Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli, and drummer Remi Aguilella keep it simple by sticking to a simple yet distinct style: Swirling guitar rifts that fade in and out, reminiscent of The XX, throbbing drum beats and poetic lyrics spinning universal thoughts and feelings.

After the EP’s, “Demos” (2010), “His Young Heart” (2011), and “The Wild Youth” (2011), Daughter has left a loyal audience with quivering lower lips, begging for more; just another set of love songs, right? Not exactly –starting with songs like “Youth”, “Landfill”, and “Smother”, the most popular tracks from the EP’s, two of which were reworked for newest album.

But their popularity is not without reason. It’s the lyrics like “Sorry if I smothered you / Sometimes I wish I’d stayed inside my mother / Never to come out” that really get to the listener. There is not a more ultimate way of expressing regret than to wish that you’d never been born in the first place, not to mention, to say it in a way that is very subtle, not crass or vulgar, and humbling.

Daughter’s poetic misery certainly does not stop there. From the first song “Winter” to the last, “Shallows”, there is no room for hope of regaining strength with lyrics like “Let it all rain down / from the blood stained clouds / Come out, come out, to the sea, my love / and just, drown with me / drown with me.” Daughter’s charm lies in something beyond utter hopelessness and haunting lyrics.

Indeed, it’s the combination of it all – Elena Tonra’s wispy voice, which fades in, twists in the wound, and fades back out along with gentle guitar that suspends the entire emotion and the beats that punches the emotion in the face.

No matter how much skeptical listeners want to step back and deem the album as just another mourning young lover’s immature diary of songs, they can’t. They can’t because the entire collection is an invitation to join, not to critique, and no one can refuse Daughter’s powerfully captivating chance for drowning.

And why not? We’re young, love hurts, and we might as well feel everything while we can. There’s nothing more comforting than to know that there’s an elusive singer out there who tours Europe like a mystical creature, singing about our woes with so much feeling, like an introverted call to all who are suffering.

And last but not least, despite the fact that “If You Leave” is clearly about agony over love, Daughter does not leave the listener at just the petty thought of love being just about love. This is where Daughter’s potential for universality makes all of this worthwhile – Love is fundamental to humanity, and “Human” reveals a simple truth that undeniably reminds us – “Waking up like an animal / I’m all ready for healing / My mind’s lost with nightmares streaming / Waking up kicking screaming… Underneath there’s a human / Buried deep within there’s a human / And despite everything I’m still human.”

Despite everything, we’re still hurting. We’re still human.

The album is impressive because it all flows together without each song losing individual merit, and even though the songs each run longer than the average song these days, you won’t think for a second why it’s lasting so long. Each moment of it is fresh, new pain and understanding immediately follows, making the journey through album far from boring, bland, or too maudlin.