[sic] Magazine

Daughter – If You Leave

Occasionally, between the days of rain in England, there are moments when the sun appears from behind the clouds, unsure whether it should be there; tiptoeing around, quietly undecided. And so it is with If You Leave that Daughter presents us with sparkles of sunshine against a background of darkness. With this in mind, I would describe this album, the London-based band’s debut, as fragile; like a beautiful butterfly which demands to be watched but never touched in case we might break its wings.

After a couple of excellent self-released EPs in 2011 and a single (‘Smother’) last year for 4AD Records, I’ve been quietly anticipating this album. After several listens I can confirm that it’s one of the best 4AD albums I’ve heard for a good while. It will certainly appeal to 4AD purists, people who would describe themselves as loving listening to ‘ethereal’ acts such as Dead Can Dance , This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins but now feel that 4AD has deserted their tastes for pastures new such as Spaceghostpurrp , Twin Shadow & Zomby . Maybe somebody at 4AD’s been listening, who knows?

First signs are promising. The album opens with the lovely ‘Winter’. There’s a Beth Orton vibe going on, particularly with Elena Tonra ‘s smoky vocals. The intro to the track could almost be an old radio being tuned in over the sound of layered ‘backwards’ guitars. There’s a true feeling of a band – of Daughter as very much a three-piece rather than Tonra and a couple of guys in the background. There’s also plenty of experimentation in the track. Each note feels considered. ‘Winter’ paints the scene very well and sets the pace for the whole of the album.

There are themes of regret, loss and insecurity throughout the album. In fact, the overall feel of the album is of looking back; things that should have been said, things that were done that now feed an overriding sense of guilt.

‘Smother’ is such an incredibly delicate song, its position at track two on the album feels initially strangely out of place. However, after several listens, you realise that what Daughter deliver are feelings, emotions; and suddenly the track feels absolutely perfect at this point in the album. There are times during ‘Smother’ when the vocals sound like they’re delivered by angels. A word of advice: those people who find themselves recently heartbroken might find the lyrical content a little too close to home.

‘Youth’, which appeared in its original form on the Wild Youth EP is reworked here. I’m very familiar with the original version and was worried I wouldn’t like the new version. In retrospect, the production on the original version wouldn’t have suited the feel of this album. As it happens, I needn’t have had any concerns, the new version sounds almost magical. Daughter performed this track on the David Letterman show in America at the end of last year. It was and still is my personal ‘wow’ moment with Daughter; the moment I completely bought in to their sound. Everything about Daughter is wrapped up in this track. There’s a slow build throughout the verse and a wonderful sense of urgency in the chorus. ‘Dog Days Are Over’ springs to mind during the chorus, but that’s actually a little unfair as Tonra’s relaxed vocals are a world away from Florence Welsh’s .

‘Still’ has all the hallmarks of a great single. It’s Daughter’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’ moment, if such a comparison could ever be made.

There are moments during ‘Shallows’, the closing track, when an underlying urgency – particularly in the drums and guitars – rises slowly up to the surface. It makes for a thrilling finale. For a track with a duration of nearly 7 minutes, it certainly doesn’t feel like it overstays its welcome.

The album’s not flawless, but this album sends a clear message that Daughter have arrived. There’s an overwhelming honesty in the songs. With If You Leave Daughter have delivered an album of incredible beauty and many listeners will find much to explore.



Daughter at 4AD