If You Leave
Reviewed by Michele Zipkin
British indie folk trio Daughter has created a collection of beautifully dark and revelatory songs on their first full-length album, If You Leave. The group seems to be perpetuating their affinity for emotionally-honest and fairly introspective tunes with this first effort. Motifs of life and loss of love litter this album, conveyed through eloquent and visual lyrics. Elena Tonra’s sweet and smokey vocal work is well supported by guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella.
The songs on the album are very personal, as is indicated by the title, which without a doubt refers to the loss of a loved one. “Still” reels you into a world of two people who perhaps were once lovers and have since broken up, but who still have the same intensity with each other as they did when they were together. The intensity of that connection is pretty well-conveyed in the chorus, with its haunting vocal melody and pounding percussion.
Many of Daughter’s lyrics are very image-heavy and metaphoric, like in the album’s opening song “Winter”, as Tonra sings “We were in flames, I needed you to run through my veins like a disease.” The title is fairly symbolic of a love lost- a frozen landscape with bare trees and growth suspended. Tonra even sings “Drifting apart like two sheets of ice, frozen hearts growing colder with time.”
An undeniably stand-out track is “Youth”, a very introspective tune that looks back on the destruction caused by past love and the foolishness we engage in to pursue it. We see more imagery here with the line “…setting fire to our insides for fun, to distract our hearts from ever missing them.” The song’s initially serene and melodic guitar strumming provides perfect support for Tonra’s bittersweet tale of how love destroys. The passion of the vocal performance as the song progresses is mirrored in the melody of the guitar, which evokes a pained heart so well, as well as the complex pulse of the drums.
In “Shallows”, essentially the title track of the album in its inclusion of the line “if you leave”, Tonra sings of the very human concern of what happens when a loved one leaves. The song, which starts off gently and escalates a bit to subdivided percussion intermingling with guitar riffing, does a good job of conveying an idea more through instrumentals and repetition of words than through lyrics. The riffy guitar producing that little eighth note melody, and the repetition of phrases like “If you leave, when I go…” and “watching the stars come out…” create the mournfulness that someone experiences when they lose someone they love. The echo of the vocals toward the beginning of the song is also perfect to enhance that mood.
As a trio, Daughter has incredible energy and synergy- the three voices play off of each other very naturally. All of the songs on If You Leave are unified stylistically and instrumentally, and they communicate, through vibrant language and intricate instrumentals, some of the most beautiful and unforgiving truths about life and love.