If ever there was an album to be listened to in a sitting, it’s If You Leave, the debut full-length by UK indie act Daughter. Released in March overseas and just this week in the US, this 10-cut record is perhaps best described as an experience: a study in the beauty of melancholy.
Fronted by Elena Tonra (whose vocals echo with reminders of Cat Power and Feist), this 3-piece act has only released EPs up to this point, but have still managed to build a massive fan base who apparently resonate more with what is emoted in their songs than by what is actually played. Subdued, solemn, and sparse, their music has a minimalist quality that almost serves as a dye that colors the space between the notes. (Even the one-word song titles seem to reflect this sparseness.) And into this desolate space float Tonra’s highly expressive vocals, each note dripping with an emotional blend of anger, sorrow and regret, both devastating and gorgeous.
Tonra’s lyrics are as poignant as her vocal delivery of them. There’s a deep longing expressed in “Touch,” for instance: “I’m dreaming of strangers kissing me in the night / Just so I can feel something.” Also the sense of loss and numbness in “Youth”: “And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones / ‘Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone.” And between the heavy rhythms of “Human” (the only song on the record that could be remotely thought of as upbeat), Tonra seems to be fighting for hope amidst pain: “Underneath the skin there’s a human…despite everything I’m still human / But I think I’m dying here.”
If the EPs served as a foretaste of the emotive power of Daughter, If You Leave establishes them as an act fully capable of bringing their listeners into a cathartic experience with their music. This isn’t a record for light, airy moods—more suited for after the party than during it—but it is certainly worth a sit-down-with-headphones listen.