If You Leave: Daughter’s emotional masterpiece

Daughter - If You Leave album cover

By Mitchell Shaun Parker

In their debut album If You Leave, London-based band Daughter wants you to know that they love you, but they are conceiving a world without you. With their dark, brooding mix of Igor Haefeli’s lingering guitar, entrancing, almost tribal drumming courtesy Remi Aguilella and the clear but chilling vocals of Elena Tonra, the album is a mix of classic British indie rock and earth-shatteringly honest feeling.

The album, no doubt, is an emotional one with it charting the course of a destructive relationship. With an icily cathartic quality, the masterpiece that the group have created spans the slow and quiet ending of what was once a beautiful connection to the anger at its failure – in a loud, angry crescendo, as in Tomorrow – the search for love again (in Touch) and the rebirth of the cycle of pain that having someone close to you inevitably leads to is seen in the closing song, Shallows.

The sound is hollow, as if Daughter perform only in the depth of an Arctic cave. It reverberates with every note. The instrumentals are haunting – like the memory of past love – and feel as if each note is helplessly reaching for the next in an eternal unrequited pursuit: hands searching for the comfort of another but having it just out of grasp. That echo is wildly beautiful and symbolic of what, lyrically, is being conveyed.

The album is produced by Rodaidh McDonald whose signature heaviness is also seen with previous collaborators: the xx and How to Dress Well. In many ways, McDonald’s influence is clear with songs like Youth – which had been previously released before If You Leave – and the sound is, by comparison, more intense and less sentimental than it was on The Wild Youth.

Lyrically, the album is a triumph with Tonra’s poetry converting smoothly into her magnetic performances. Her message is layered, and complicated to feel: no doubt. However, she puts it into such marvellous imagery that the instinct is to feel the darkness that the album successfully tries to discuss.

And if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones.

‘Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs.

Setting fire to our insides for fun

Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong

The lovers that went wrong.

Overall, the album is moving. It engages rhythmically and sensitively with problems in love, depression and the irrevocable darkness that comes with memory. Instead of paving a way forward, Daughter reflects on what is and what could be unsentimentally, and, in so doing, allows the listener to see innate truths without being told them.

If You Leave is a work of musical art and is highly recommended for anyone who has a heartbeat.


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