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album review: daughter, if you leave

Indie band Daughter If You Leave

Indie-folk trio Daughter has been becoming more and more a part of my universe lately. I first heard about the band, which started out in 2010 as lead singer Elena Tora’s solo work, a couple months ago. A good friend of mine who always sends me the best new music sent through a link to their video “Still” and almost immediately I was captivated. Daughter’s haunting vocals and epic buildup in beat and tempo reminded me of early Florence + the Machine, but is just a little more balanced: their sound focuses equally on the musicianship and the vocals, not just using the instrumentals as a vehicle to showcase a superstar voice.

Daughter released their full-length album If You Leave on March 15 in Australia and March 18 in the U.S. Upon my first listen-through of the album, as soon as the second track “Smother” began to reach its crescendo (somewhere around 2:30), I was hooked.

The quality of the production and musicianship on this album is really outstanding, especially for a debut album. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting something awesome; it’s just I had the album playing in the background while I was working on a very heavy data-mining assignment for my day job and I had to stop several times just to absorb how good the songs were. I hate to say it, but that’s becoming rarer and rarer to find. This month I’ve seen both Youth Lagoon and Alt-J perform, both as equally up-and-coming/indie-darling as Daughter (and in my mind as talented), but even live I had a hard time really differentiating their songs because I would often have either Youth Lagoon’s The Year of Hibernation or Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave on as background music while I wrote, walked around, did work, what have you. If You Leave is different, it forces you acknowledge it right from the onset.

Aside from just the music, a quick look at the band’s website reveals an amazing Freespace section, which gives budding filmmakers and musicians access to raw video and audio that Daughter has recently completed, for the goal of creating new art and music with their resources. That collaborative spirit is so refreshing. In the age where a lot of popular songs sample older ones and money is somehow involved via royalty fees, Daughter is using the internet to put out their creative assets as artists in a community of artists.

If You Leave primarily displays a masterful control of tempo scale and methodical beat build-up that reminds me of what I love so much about LCD Soundsystem, like “Youth” and “Human“. There are also slower songs on the album, which are beautiful and emotional soundscapes in the vein of Sigur Ros, like “Lifeforms“, which I enjoyed, but found myself wanting to get past to continue with the thumping, more powerful tracks. “Tomorrow” is a perfect centerpiece for the album: it beautifully displays Elena’s vocals, is a perfect synergy between a choral background and the band’s intensity and is a song I imagine to be absolutely killer when performed live. The final track, “Shallows“, explains why the album is called If You Leave, while making you want to do anything but leave after the album is over.

If You Leave is available worldwide via 4AD records, and tour dates can be found here.

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