London's most emotionally devastating trio, Daughter, truly pull no punches on their chilling full-length debut, If You Leave, home to a glut of paeans spieling shattered love and misplaced innocence. It's a record with frightening maturity, intimately aware of the pitfalls of life – it's for those who have hit rock bottom, or for those with no place to go, told with passionate conviction and the sincerity of one who's been to hell and back. The LP is a bruised sermon steeped in grave anecdotes which verge on the macabre. Elena Tonra's astral vocals are imbued with a frailty of someone barely holding themselves together with fraying thread; her voice cracks under the pressure of saving face, and there are time you can almost hear her force back a tear. Honestly, it's a traumatic record to experience - you'll be sucked in by the radiant lustre of the music, and it soon becomes impossible to distance yourself from the terror of the lyrical content. You'll share the pain of Daughter, and feel your own heart break with every note. You'll see your world turn grey with each earth-quaking beat.
'Winter' beckons you closer as it opens the album. Rippling shards of guitar reverberate through the expansive cut, darting amongst echoes - it's indicative of what to expect from of texture on If You Leave. Often, the music is sodden with gossamer sonic filigree or hulking tiers of sound, as if the post-folk trio were performing under dense fog as their amps bellowed smoke. Recent single 'Still' recalls The xx as it lurches to life – sparse guitar trickles through snappy, crunching percussion - but soon the effort adopts its own persona, as grinding feedback and a multitude of shoegazer effects whirr underfoot. 'Tomorrow' is home to apocalyptic creaks, the kind you'd imagine hearing as the world crumbles. Faraway wolf howls from Tonra lurk behind a wall of solemn strumming, between shimmering, meteoric bursts of tremolo guitar. It's dark, exhausted and vulnerable. This is the band peeling back pale flesh to expose their still-beating innards, revealing all they can summon at the crest of the track, and leaving you breathless amidst silence after the dust settles.
As If You Leave unfolds, it becomes gradually apparent that the saga before your ears is a mammoth task for one sitting: the shortest song is 5:54, with the average song length approaching 8 minutes. But far from being sluggish, the music seems to dilate time as you're immersed within Daughter's snapshot of loves demise. The tracks may be sprawling, but not once do you notice. The fact is, each track needs this space to evolve, allowing for swooping crescendos and passages of disquieting quiet. Without the breathing room, what Daughter would have ended up with would be dismal, a faded pastiche of themselves, rife with half-cocked ideas and impatience. This is a labour of the utmost love - it's a very parental love – and the result is a collection of noises nurtured slowly over months until they blossomed into something beautiful.
Although the interweaving guitars and soul-rattling percussion may tingle your spine, they wouldn't induce half as many shivers were it not for Tonra's nerve-wracked and embattled lyrics. Death is a frequent theme: "I should go quietly now/ for my bones have found a place/ to lie down and sleep," and "I sometimes wish I'd stayed inside my mother/ never to come out," are two powerful lines from lead single 'Smother', with the general gist being 'when I'm dead, the world'll be better'. It's the kind of insecurity and anxiety we're all plagued by at some point in our lives. Tonra is blunt in her poetry, never beating about the bush when it comes to discussing her distaste for something. 'Youth' is wrought with bitterness: "And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones / 'cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs." There's a tangible envy, but the main focus is on the inevitability of losing innocence - it's almost an ode to youthful regret - through heartache. Some themes are repeated across tracks (death, love, loss of innocence), giving If You Leave a proper continuity, with each effort a different perspective or strand of though about one singular event.
This first LP serves as a coping mechanism, allowing Daughter to pursue completion of the grieving process. There's anger, depression, guilt - it's the anatomy of a break-up. This album will resonate with so many people due to the widespread agony of lost love, with each song analysing a different aspect of the fallout. In essence, it's actually an incredibly hopeful concept album, dissecting heartbreak and providing a catalyst for cartharsis. You'll bawl your way through If You Leave, but after the last tone of 'Shallows' stops ringing, you'll be invigorated.