If You Leave is the debut album by Daughter released under 4AD on 18 March 2013. In anticipation of the album, a music video for the promotional single "Still" was released on 24 January 2013. It was directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.
Something about roses and thorns, of surface beauty masking elements more menacing. Search online a little and this is a common tact when addressing the music of London-based trio Daughter.
And with good reason: theirs is a sound instantly enchanting of design. But the somewhat quaint, almost-folk arrangements and Elena Tonra’s vocals – as gorgeously direct and detailed as a Matisse, complete with age-impressed cracks spider-webbing the canvas – sit atop an emotional turbulence that many would restrict to locked-tight diary pages.
Music has long been a method of catharsis, of course. But spend a few hours in the company of If You Leave and the effect is draining.
Not in a negative sense – the repeat plays logged by this writer are testament to this album’s longevity. But expect to feel almost as broken as the protagonist behind these songs’ narratives come set-closer Shallows.
Tonra doesn’t shy away from summoning deep-rooted sermons on the subject of love – most notably the aftermath of its collapse, and subsequent feelings of isolation. It’s all the listener can do to not hunt down the culprit behind her splintered heart and demand answers, such are the singer’s devastatingly succinct illustrations of romantic fallout.
“I’ve lost it all, I’m just a silhouette / I’m a lifeless face that you’ll soon forget,” is one such moment, a snapshot from Youth. Tomorrow further distances the separation by actually articulating it more intimately: “By tomorrow I’ll be left in the darkness / Amongst your cold sheets.” It’s genuinely powerful, moving stuff.
Something more sinister than relationships gone awry stirs elsewhere. “Find the children lost at sea,” Tonra sings on Lifeforms, “Find the children who discreetly / Were killed in infancy.”
Such lines bring to mind Scandinavian mythology, specifically the legend of mylings. They connect Daughter’s music, albeit in an abstract fashion, with the more arcane strands of folk that came before them.
Daughter’s generally gentle arrangements, rarely roused from a whisper to a roar – Winter features some pounding percussion; the layered, choral vocals of Smother are gorgeous – are therefore rather more engaging than many a peer’s offerings.
If You Leave is a damaged debut, then, but the way the hues of its bruises blend into each other is wholly hypnotic. It wants to love, again, but has chosen darkness.