Daughter - Not To Disappear

by Brett Dickinson

It seems risky to disagree with the Assistant Editor who described this album as “so boring” (in a post on the PearShaped group). Daughter’s second offering, whilst far better than most of the PearShaped cohort probably would now expect, is not what guitarist Igor Haefili promised when he suggested the next album would be “more extreme” and take Daughter’s sound in a different direction. Instead the album retains the feel of If You Leave for a large part of it, hinting at some new directions but lacking the boldness to go any further with them.

The album retains the same strongpoints typical of Daughter, Elena Tonra’s intriguing and haunting vocals continue to be the centre-point, backed sparsely by the guitar of Igor Haefili and drums of Remi Aguilella, with the occasional synth also making a subtle appearance. Tonra, also the main lyricist, has never been one to shy away from tough subjects or leaving herself emotionally vulnerable and this raw honesty shines through again, especially in Doing The Right Thing, the song that has attracted the most attention, which chooses Alzheimer’s as its subject matter – hardly the mainstream in a music world where, at the time of writing, the charts are dominated by Justin Bieber and groups who came together through the X Factor. Doing The Right Thing is a subtly poignant evocation of losses past and future further haunted by Igor Haefili’s coldly beautiful guitar backing. Loss and loneliness are big themes on an album that for all its plus points is in no way light or consoling, the intensity of the music and themes continuing throughout.

Numbers is the lead track of the album and arguably its strongest. Haefili’s guitar and a synth provide an atmospheric backing to Tonra’s vocals, which gets darker and more grandiose as the song continues and turns darker still with Tonra’s raw, almost pained, repeated “You’d better… make me better”.

Alone/With You is the Human of the second album - the track that seems musically at odds with the rest of the album, whilst continuing the album’s theme, a song about loneliness when alone or in company. Whilst “I hate walking alone/ I should get a dog or something” is not the best line in terms of knife-sharp lyricism, the song works nonetheless, in that it strives for honesty rather than lyrical perfection, helped by a reverb-heavy backing.

No Care is another departure from the style of the album and whilst an effective song, particularly due to Haefili’s (comparatively) fast-paced guitar line, this type of song is less suited to Tonra’s voice and its inclusion on the album jars slightly.

To Belong is a song that develops beyond If You Leave. Its beginning has a similar bleakness, with Tonra’s voice taking centre stage, accompanied by Aguilella’s unrelenting, persistent drumming. The musical bridge develops a rockier sound, before shifting back to the minimalism of Tonra’s voice until finally the two meet in the middle to draw the song to a close. More of this kind of thing in the future would be much appreciated; Fossa attempts it but, at just under seven minutes long, its length sadly overshadows this song, for all its good elements.

Made Of Stone is the final track on the album and almost brings it back full circle. It’s a song that would not be out of place on If You Leave, yet lyrically it is darkly beautiful before turning musically dark and intriguing to sign off the album - a marked change from the slow, simple musicality of the majority of the song.

Daughter are unlikely to be playing to sell-out crowds across the world anytime soon, yet by retaining their uniqueness (even if they are hesitant to develop beyond this) they retain a rawness and a musical beauty as well as a depth and integrity that many more successful artists fail to achieve. Not To Disappear is by no means a perfect second album, but it capably reiterates Daughter’s strengths and gives tantalising glimpses at some new directions they may be able to develop further. Whilst it may be dark and minimalistic in places, it’s certainly not dull.