Album Review: ‘Not to Disappear’

4AD

4AD

★★★

English indie-folk act Daughter has an uncanny ability to portray heartbreak and angst in a way that truly resonates with listeners. Across their catalogue, lead singer Elena Tonra and her musical romantic partner Igor Haefeliare have perfected their delivery of skepticism concerned with everyday topics from relationships to happiness.

The duo’s lyrical prowess is once again demonstrated in its second full-length album, “Not to Disappear.” In the same vein as Daughter’s debut album, “If You Leave” in 2013, “Not to Disappear” is filled with disheartening statements of truth and discontent. However, while Tonra sang mostly from her personal perspective in “If You Leave,” the lyrics in the duo’s latest album speak solely about a collective suffering from the same bleak mindset.

Although the perspective has changed, each lyric showcases the same vulnerability and poeticism on “If You Leave.” Sonically, Daughter does not depart from its signature minimal instrumentation and quiet vocal melodies. Through this, Daughter is able to convey a brooding, ambient atmosphere filled with beautifully haunting vocals. Although Tonra does not command soaring vocals, she is able to mesmerize the listener with her hushed tones and unique vocal phrasings.

The opening track, “New Ways,” draws the listener in with a seductive instrumental introduction. The second song, “Numbers” proceeds as an expose of today’s hookup culture. The song starts slowly but builds with the addition of intense drumbeats. Tonra unapologetically digs at the meaninglessness and depravity of one-night stands with the lyrics “I’ll wash my mouth but still taste you” and “I feel numb in this kingdom.” With this, Tonra evokes to the listener that although having a one-night stand may feel good in the moment, it only serves to intensify feelings of worthlessness.

Similarly, “Alone/With You” comments on the futility of relationships. The lyrics “Talking to myself is boring conversation” and “I hate living with you / I hate walking with you” showcase the possibility of feeling isolated, even when there is somebody at your side.

“Doing the Right Thing” shifts the subject matter from relationships to illness, specifically focusing on the suffering of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. Sung from the patient’s perspective, this song pulls on the listener’s heartstrings as the patient’s mental collapse progresses: drowning in her memories, but simultaneously fearing the loss of them. Tonra’s vocals haunt the listener as she sings “I am just fearing one day soon I will lose my mind / Then I’ll lose my children / Then I’ll lose my love.”

Daughter has created a perfect niche for itself in the alternative and indie genres, showcasing creative growth on “Not to Disappear,” which could potentially elevate the duo’s widespread appeal. However, many songs on the album, including “How,” “To Belong” and “Mother,” all begin to blur together, as the instrumentation and vocal melodies are without variance.

The only song in which Daughter strays from its signature sound is “No One.” Heavy drums paired with a familiar vocal performance create a spitfire song that shows the band’s range. Sadly, other examples of this growth are absent throughout the remainder of the album.

The album concludes with “Made of Stone,” in which Tonra ponders whether her discontent is a facade or her true feelings. She whispers, “What if I am made of stone? / I should be feeling more.” These lines perfectly sum up the cathartic expose of relationships this album presents.

Tonra has previously been outspoken about the fact that her inspiration stems from her experiences dealing with the emotional challenges of life. “Not to Disappear” deliberates unhappiness and love, with an ultimately negative valuation. The album seems to conclude that there is no easy answer to depravity and loneliness in life, and that there is no way to realize if these feelings are true or just a facade used to protect one’s feelings. This message, paired with the inviting and airy yet haunting sonic landscape, creates a remarkable album, though it unfortunately lacks any sign of creative growth for the duo.

 

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