Daughter – If You Leave

daughterIn an alternative universe Daughter fail. Elena Tonra is swept off her feet by a major label, and cuddled and cajoled to do her best Amy MacDonald impersonation. Some smart aleck brands her a ‘quirky female singer songwriter’. Her team milks early comparison to Laura Marling to the tune of commercial success. Then the difficult second album lands, her fame falters, and she finds herself working on the checkout of a soon to be closed HMV store.

Fortunately in our universe Daughter fail to spoil If You Leave with petty gimmicks and crowd spinners. The grace of their debut album is, it’s been allowed to develop at its own pace. Thanks to some heroic defence from 4AD and a large dollop of will power on the band’s behalf, the industry can throw nothing at Daughter that their sheer talent can’t handle. Fans have huffed and puffed at the speed of delivery, but now the London trio are here, armed with the genius they’ve threatened all along.

A prominent feature of If You Leave is the production on which it thrives. It’s touched by God - or rather the hands of Rodaidh McDonald, who at every turn highlights the vast soundscapes of Daughter’s music. His work with The xx comes into play the most, with sonic interlude scattering the instrumentation of “Human” and background drone complimenting the repetition of “Still”. With someone else in the production chair, If You Leave could have sounded like a record by your average indie band.

Despite being aided by a well placed collaboration, the album is still a spellbinding mass of originality that embodies astral projection and a generation’s despair in one fell swoop. For starters, it actually goes somewhere, with "Human" and "Lifeforms" providing a welcome lift. Elsewhere songs like “Tomorrow” and “Amsterdam” make sense of life with delicate poetry, while “Winter” and “Lifeforms” clutch at the melancholy of a heart broken by the death of innocence. Say what you like about Tonra’s disposition for painting things black, but no one can deny her lyrical prowess.

One of the first songs to offer a glimpse of Daughter’s dark side was The Wild Youth EP’s “Youth”, which features while peers “Medicine” and “Home” are left behind. It’s a cull from which If You Leave ultimately benefits. Daughter’s songwriting ability has improved tenfold over time, and their album stands testament. There’s barely a trace of the restless inertia on debut EP His Young Heart. Elena’s previous solo effort, which beckoned the aforementioned ‘quirky female singer songwriter’ branding, is but a whisper in the wind. With songs this accomplished, it’s easy to forget Daughter are a mere two years old.

Already being championed as one of the best albums of the year, it won’t be long before Daughter reach the dizzying heights of fame their alternates quickly possessed. If You Leave proves they have the tenacity to continue unfazed.

Release: 14th March 2013, 4AD

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