Review Summary: A pop funeral for Elena Tonra's heart.
From the window of some seemingly expensive hotel's room 232, Daughter's very own Elena Tonra contemplates New York City, briefly surrendering to the drunken hallucination of past romances and sentimental failings. She's at war with the mini-bar, and she is definitely winning. It's her way of dealing with a break-up, a methodical approach, sure, but one as good as any other. Turns out, it's also the glossy excuse for her first album under the moniker "Ex:Re".
Elena Tonra's first musical effort outside the dark ambient pop realm of Daughter is one that goes through several phases: Anger meets deception and clashes with careless euphoria in a matter of ten tracks. Like an unforgettable night out and the consequent hangover, the vicious circle repeats itself every three or four tunes until it finally passes out without a clear conclusion. Musically, the instrumentation in Ex:Re
seems to be stark on principle, but tune that ear in and you'll find it's riddled with a decent amount of detail. It takes an effort on the listener’s side, but it is this good will what keeps it from being stale and unimaginative. Because it's easy to feel desperate or simply bored when listening to Ex:Re
for the first time. Elena runs at a very different speed when she is by herself, in her own difficult mood. Meanwhile, it's November and the world races on to the next great thing, desperately looking for that last addition to those already bloated AOTY lists. But Ex:Re has bigger matters to attend to, her own heart's funeral being the most pressing of them.
If Daughter is Elena Tonra's pleasant dreaming, Ex:Re
is her awaken nightmare. She is unleashed here, speaking in venomous tongues and even channeling some Sun Kil Moon here and there in songs like "New York" or opener "Where the Time Went". She sounds angry, drunk and occasionally exhausted. First single "Romance" shares the brightest moment of the album with the vibrant "I Can't Keep You", both tracks being Elena's rough idea of party mode, and yet the music sinks in unforgiving darkness. Hard truths are shared, and disturbing details are given in the name of alcohol, a "drunken stutter" as she would say. And then comes the headache, namely "The Dazzler" and "Too Sad", a couple of trip-hop unpolished gems that drag their weight through the middle part of the album, with the latter being the closest to Elena Tonra's sound with Daughter. After the piano-driven fantasy of "5am", the album closes up with "My Heart", an intimate indie folk-in-the-room confession that sends off Ex:Re
out in the silence.
is a confusing album. Elena Tonra's solo effort is a charming and fascinating riddle that will remain unsolved for many. It's like that joke that no one really knows if it's ok to laugh or it would be more appropriate to look away and pretend it never happened. It's your drunken sister making a scene in your wedding because things are just falling apart in her life, and the more you try to reach out to understand her, the crazier she sounds but still, you empathize. And maybeEx:Re
should just be treated as that, as something that Elena Tonra just needed to get out of her system before moving forward with Daughter, for the sake of healing, for redemption. The result though is an album that feels hostile at first, but one that patience will reward, if given the proper attention. Whether you decide to be her confident or to completely ignore her tale it’s up to you, but no matter what approach you choose, don’t forget that wine will undoubtedly help.