Music

Daughter: If You Leave

"I think I'm dying here" is a mission statement for Daughter's slowly decaying debut album.


Daughter

If You Leave

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2013-04-30
UK Release Date: 2013-03-18
Amazon
iTunes

Elena Tonra talks about living in negation of everything else. “Underneath the skin there's a human / Buried deep within there's a human / And despite everything I'm still human”, she sings on “Human”, listing the callousness of others and the trials of her life as proof that, well, things go on. She’s reacting to what’s happened throughout If You Leave, calling herself a fool and giving out backhanded apologies (“I’m sorry if I smothered you”, she admits like sorry means something else), but for “Human” she seems to focus on what’s internal to her, and what no one else can quite get at. Tonra doesn’t need to apologise to herself, and that’s a defiant moment for a record wracked with this pain of hopelessness. For me, it makes it the best song on If You Leave, and the moment where the album finally begins. It’s a glimpse of sunlight on the morning after a languished night, Tonra crackling with newfound energy in the face of what’s fading behind her. There are a lot of topic sentences about If You Leave that won’t tell that story – the defiant moment, clearer and less guarded revelation – but it’s captivating to watch Tonra shake off the burden she’s locked herself up with.

If You Leave is out of its shell for just these few moments, Tonra awakening and emanating something like optimism. The full-bodied, almost playful guitar strumming on “Human” recalls Sigur Rós’ elegiac “Gobbledigook”, another song that aimed to surprise an audience who expected the still, quiet beauty of an unyielding band. But we’re taught see the emotions of If You Leave as inescapable, and “Human” seems to exist so that Tonra can dispel herself. It ends hardened, the guitar vanishing under flustering piano notes that hold the album down, and the walls closing in on the space around her. “But”, Tonra reminds herself, suffocating, “I think I’m dying here”. It’s a crushing return to her sense of reality, but such is the inevitability of this album – Tonra wears her dependence, and her sacrifices, as a uniform.

“Human” can’t escape that, and while it’s striking to see Tonra briefly consider something other than dying love (turning instead to herself), this is a homogenously album, one that crafts the tragedy. I barely notice “Winter” morphing into “Smother”, despite the formers’ climactic crutch and the latter’s damning hush, and as a band, Daughter synthesize their crossover album expertly, melding electronic music with such a subdued approach it puts out the lights, and turns the indie folk leanings to thoughts of darkness. When If You Leave pulses, like it does on “Still”, it does so as a faraway force, the beats dropping over a skyline; Tonra’s band offer a metropolis for her searching self to struggle through. Her performance on the album, meanwhile, is startling but respectful. Her guitar playing acts as a starting point, letting the album’s dramas fall to the ground around her – “Youth” with its shimmering drums and feedback, covers her quiet, repeating notes underneath. Tonra is the quiet epicentre of If You Leave, whispering lines like “most of us are bitter over someone” knowing the venom will be extracted no matter how loud she is.

For an earnestly constructed record such as it is – one so composed I’ve debated whether it should be, and whether that’s why its best moment is the one that shakes it awake – If You Leave is an album about something far messier. It documents the world around one person slowly, eventually crumbling, the life outside her being witnessed with a devastating slow-motion set up. I might love “Human” because it steps out of that realm for just a moment, but I love it more for falling back into the sad, inevitable rhythms Tonra clings to. On “Smother”, she sings “All my children can become me” as if this story will be lived again. “What a mess I leave to follow”, she adds, because heartbreak comes in waves.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image