Review Summary: Quite beautiful, when it retains its composure.
Call me heartless, but I’m fed up of the break-up album. In my opinion, if you’re going to spend forty minutes grieving to your audience over the death of your weekly couples trip to Blockbuster, you should damn well go all out to try and elicit any kind of expression in them besides ‘there, there’ and an awkward pat on the back. Obsession is fascinating, infatuation is boring. I want to hear about how you threw a brick through your ex’s window, with a note wrapped around it spelling out ‘I fuc
king love you, you disgusting, beautiful shi
t’ in cut-out magazine letters. I don’t want to hear you whine about how you wish you were dead. Either pull your socks up, or lodge them in his exhaust pipe. Don’t let me put my arm around you; bite it off.
Unfortunately, indie trio Daughter’s debut LP spends a little too long in the infatuation camp, sobbing into the pillow to the best friend down the phone. And when I say a little, I mean a little. For the most part of If You Leave
, the band succeed at shirking the batshi
t obsession route whilst still managing to sound interesting, sincere, and rather moving. They do this by capitalizing on their sombre sound, one that is centred on singer Elena Tonra’s voice. It’s not a spectacular voice; it’s not destined to turn heads or bring almost-tears to the corners of van drivers’ eyes, but it’s tender, earnest, composed, English. The music which surrounds her is sweet, sparse and dark - reverb heavy twinkly guitar twangs, throaty ambience, clacking of sticks and rims, a late-arriving deep and enveloping bass - it’s a perfectly weighted and really quite beautiful accompaniment to the themes of lost love present on the album.
Until the themes lose their composure. All of this worked on their two previous EPs, which were four tracks a piece. But when you hit ten tracks, you stop describing the album with adjectives like ‘poignant’, ‘bruised’, ‘damaged’ and ‘haunting’ and replace them with ‘tiresome’, ‘exasperating’, ‘self-defeating’ and ‘again?’. It gets carried away with its own misery. That’s why it’s hard to pick an album highlight or dud; the homogeneity of the sorrow causes the tracks to muddy into one another. Even the sprightly and refreshingly uplifting acoustic melody on ‘Human’ draws groans when it accompanies lyrics like these: “I tried to escape but keep sinking”… “I think I’m dying here”. It’s the same story on ‘Youth’, the single you’ll have heard from last year’s Tour de France ITV advert. It’s got the pretty melody, the stirring bass drum, the shimmering guitars, the cute structure, but then, too, lyrics that shuffle into self-pitying, almost conspiratorial territory: “Setting fire to our insides for fun / Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong.”
I want to like this album more than I do because it’s lovely, it’s captivating, it’s enchanting, it’s really rather heartbreaking. And I do like it, I like it quite a lot, and you should definitely check it out. But, like the initially supportive best friend whose advice down the phone seems to continually fall on deaf ears and would quite like now to get back to watching the footy, I’m stuck with little on my tongue besides ‘really…’ and little on my mind besides ‘oh, suck it up man’. Call me heartless, but…