British three-piece indie folk band Daughter specializes in spooky, intense tunes. Their sophomore release "Not to Disappear" amps up the intensity both instrumentally and lyrically while still haunting the listener.
Vocalist and guitarist Elena Tonra writes her dark lyrics with a sincerity that prevents them from being too overwhelming or melodramatic. When I first heard the album’s two singles, they seemed to rehash their first album "If You Leave" and offer little to anticipate on the new one. Little did I know that the plucked guitar riffs on the sorrow-laden “Doing the Right Thing” and the enigmatic “Numbers” foreshadowed the mild rock-and-roll elements that Daughter has managed to add to their music while maintaining their folksy vibe.
The opening song “New Ways” wastes no time in unnerving the listener. During the instrumental interlude, the guitars become distorted and entrancing. The first time I heard it, I felt the urge to close my eyes and let the sound wash over me. The album’s title comes from the song’s bridge: “I’m trying to get out/Find a subtle way out/Not to cross myself out/Not to disappear,” which could allude to a toxic relationship or any negative situation.
The ten-track album takes its darkest turn right in the middle with “Mothers.” Instrumentally, it is practically a movement of a symphony. The beginning sounds ghostly enough to be in a horror film, but as the ominous vocals begin, so does the electric guitar. Tonra sings mournfully that mothers provide endless love and care for their children, who only drain them dry and grow up to become strangers.
“Alone / With You” repeats itself almost word for word, interchanging “alone” and “with you” in the description of a miserable life. The scary deduction that life with a significant other isn’t much different from life alone implies that one person cannot determine another person’s happiness. (As a side note, the lyric “I should get a dog or something” is the closest Daughter will ever come to humor, and the song’s constant reiteration of hating life resembles punk-rock teen angst.)
“No Care,” my favorite song on the album, is the band’s furthest venture from the style of their first album and by far the fastest song they’ve ever played. The entire song, fittingly the shortest on the album, is pure chaos, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Immediately following is “To Belong,” my second favorite. It’s many things “No Care” is not: soft, steady, orderly and articulate, while its throbbing percussion and bass are just similar enough to the previous song that the change isn’t too jarring.
I completely zoned out the first couple times I listened to “How” and the closing song, “Made of Stone,” but both songs are growing on me. Their delicate guitar and bass lines could still put me to sleep, but in a peaceful rather than a boring way.
“Fossa” confuses me in multiple ways: its tempo and time signature change more than once, and apparently it’s named after some fox-like animal for no reason at all. However, I still find it likeable, perhaps because it dares to be different, both from the album and indie music in general. It goes from as slow as “Mothers” to as fast as “No Care,” in a heartbeat – actually, more like a drumbeat.
I expected "Not to Disappear" to be okay, but not great. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Daughter’s eerie yet ambient music has finally acquired moments of knock-your-socks-off brilliance, and they’ve proven they aren’t afraid to experiment or broaden their horizons. I definitely didn’t expect to say this, but I can’t wait to hear what they create next.