I discovered the London-based indie folk band Daughter in 2014, and their music immediately became some of my most played. I kept many of the songs on repeat for weeks. Their first studio album “If You Leave” was atmospheric and poignant, particularly because of Elena Tonra’s enchanting vocals, and it became my go-to for cold winter days or when I was feeling particularly low-spirited. My favorite tracks were “Shallows,” “Still,” “Human” and perhaps their best-known song, “Youth.” The song “Switzerland” from their EP “His Young Heart” is one of my favorite instrumental tracks.
When their long-awaited second album “Not to Disappear” was released in mid-January, I immediately opened Spotify and listened to it all the way through. I had high expectations after the way the band’s previous music had resonated with me so deeply.
During my first listen, I was instantly disappointed, but it often takes multiple listens to get a feel for the album. After going through the album thoroughly, I definitely liked it more than I did initially. It has a few stellar songs that rival my older favorites and certainly includes more variety and experimentation, as well as stronger instrumentals. However, it didn’t quite measure up to the band’s previous work and the second half of the album in particular fell flat.
“Not to Disappear” consists of 10 tracks and runs 47 minutes long. It opens with “New Ways,” a fitting introduction for the group’s attempt at taking their music in a different direction with the album. It begins slowly and the instrumentals are the star of the song, especially towards the end with intense and chaotic guitars. The album’s title is derived from the bridge: “I’m trying to get out / Find a subtle way out / Not to cross myself out / Not to disappear.”
The feeling of the second track goes well with its title, “Numb,” with its repetitive lyrics and haunting instrumentals, though it is not a song that sticks out.
“Doing The Right Thing” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and the lyrics are dark and depressing–they are very reminiscent of “Smoke” from “If You Leave.” They describe the effect of Alzheimer’s and the major loss that comes with it: “I’m just fearing one day soon / I’ll lose my mind / Then I’ll lose my children / Then I’ll lose my love / Then I’ll sit in silence.” “How” is another one of my favorites, though more because of the melody than the lyrics, and it is evocative of bands like The Innocence Mission.
“Mothers” continues with the focus on loss and family, and speaks of unconditional love: “Oh love all you need to love before it goes / When your face becomes a stranger’s I don’t know / You will never remember who I love for you / Carried in the womb.” This is also the last song of the album that I really love, and the tracks after this all left me wanting in some way.
“Alone / With You” is interesting in its structure and lyrics, describing the feeling of loneliness and isolation that one can feel when they’re both alone and in the company of others. The first and second parts mirror each other, showing that there is little discrepancy between the two types of solitude. But even though the lyrics are poignant, everything else about the song is fairly lacking and rather unimpressive.
“No Care” is certainly the most imaginative of the songs and deviates from the band’s typical music. With fast, frenzied beats and hectic drums, it goes with the setting of the singer dancing alone and wildly with no care in the world. This singer is part of a destructive and confusing relationship. The last three songs of the album are mostly one tone and uninspiring, both lyrically and instrumentally, and I got no lasting impression from them, especially “To Belong.”
The first part of the album is definitely much stronger. There were some excellent songs that gave me the same sensations and feelings as some of the first songs I listened to by Daughter–the ones I had on repeat for days.
The band’s lyrics as a whole tend to be mostly minimal and repetitive, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they fit well with the haunting and melancholic vibe of their music. They touch on themes of grief, heartbreak and desolation.
For fans of the band, “Not to Disappear” is worth listening to. But for those who are new to them, I would recommend their earlier music. It is a much better introduction and is overall superior. Those who are drawn to bands like The xx and The National–who Daughter toured with in 2014–would certainly find something worthwhile in any of Daughter’s music.
“Not to Disappear” didn’t live up to admittedly high expectations as a whole, but there are beautiful gems in there that linger with you and have a lasting effect.