Daughter, ‘If You Leave’ – Album Review
London-based Daughter released their debut, ‘If You Leave,’ in mid-March on 4AD, but the album is just now landing in the U.S. and Canada via Glassnote Records. What began as the solo project of lead singer and guitarist Elena Tonra is now fully realized with the help of guitarist Igor Haefeli, who also produced this record, and drummer Remi Aguilella.
Following a string of EPs, the first of which arrived in 2010, Daughter show considerable growth with ‘If You Leave.’ In three short years, Tonra has developed light years as a singer and songwriter. Originally, the songstress paired sweet vocals with angst-laden lyrics like, “I hate your guts,” to quote ‘Landfill,’ from the 2011 EP ‘His Young Heart.’ Now, her style has matured, which is exemplified in the album's restraint and depth.
In addition to their EPs, Daughter have had several songs featured in TV shows, one being England’s beloved teen drama ‘Skins.’ The combination has created a significant fan base for the band, and diehards will be pleased to recognize ‘Youth’ and ‘Smother’ from previous releases.
Tonra is often compared to fellow English acts like Laura Marling, and Emmy the Great and Snow Club also come to mind. With that said, there’s a quality to ‘If You Leave’ that is entirely its own. While the songs cover universal themes like youth, love and loss, the indie-folk trio has a way of making them feel new. This is only made possible by Tonra’s voice. She's not just soft-spoken, but she sings in a haunting whisper rife with fault.
While tracks like ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Touch’ get lost due to lyrics that feel a bit “been there, heard that,” more often than not, the trio creates songs that stop you in your tracks. ‘Winter’ opens the album, starting quietly with Tonra’s signature poetic musings but quickly progressing into darker territory accompanied by Haefeli and Aguillela’s atmospheric sonic elements. The song prepares you for an album that is sure to leave you feeling a bit haunted by its end.
‘Still’ and ‘Human’ are also standout tracks. The former opens with the enchanting break in Tonra’s voice, but it's quickly driven home by Haefeli and Aguilella. The guitar and drums don’t disappear but rather complement her voice in all of the right ways. They're minimalist when they need to be, yet they're building and persistent when it's appropriate.
Haefeli and Aguilella’s slow and steady pace lends itself to ‘Human,’ making listeners feel like they're heading toward battle. This music helps to deliver Tonra’s writing in a way that ensures it sticks. “Underneath the skin there’s a human / Buried deep within there’s a human / And despite everything I’m still human,” Tonra croons. Yes, there certainly is something very human underneath all of Daughter’s thoughtful, calculated and layered sounds.