Daughter’s sophomore album, Not to Disappear, will push you away, because that is exactly what it is designed to do. Unless you find yourself in a specific emotional state, or are able to imagine or recall what that state might feel like, the album will be a trial. As an examination of self-loathing and depression, it works mightily. It is so successful, in fact, that one cannot be blamed for not wanting to spend much time with it.

Not to Disappear is as cynical a record about love and relationships as you are likely to hear in 2016. It isn’t so much a breakup record as it is a record about the point after the breakup, when the separation has already happened and the bitterness has settled in. This an album for those crushed by relationships and unwilling or unable to see a way back to buying in. Its songs paint a picture of person who is simultaneously disgusted by and desperate for affection, one who looks at the entire enterprise as a base, foreign act beyond their capacity, something longed for nonetheless. So, yeah; not exactly a party record.

Musically, the record stays firmly on the dour side of post-punk; it sounds a bit like Interpol on the wrong side of a cocaine binge. Despite somewhat quizzically describing themselves as “indie-folk,” the band uses its guitars, synths, bass lines and barely-there drum beats to create an oppressive sense of loss and despair, miles away from anything connected to traditional ideas of “folk.” Besides a few brief diversions – the bass-and-vocal dropout on the chorus of “Do the Right Thing,” which sounds like the XX, and the buoyant dance-punk of “No Care,” which aligns the band with Frightened Rabbit, Not to Disappear is basically mood music for a near-depressive pity party.

The lyrics of singer Elena Tonra are what give this record its life and depth. Her writing style waffles between hyper-specific and appealingly vague, but it is always focused on exploring the larger themes of self-doubt, self-exhaustion and surrender. Take, for example, the album’s starting track, “New Ways;” Tonra’s character is trying to “get out/ not to cross myself out/ not to disappear” which, when delivered with Tonra’s understated, disconnected style atop the band’s dourness, tells far more than its written words suggest. Her more specific turns of phrase on “Alone / With You,” with statements like “talking to myself is boring conversation/ Me and I are not friends/ she is only an acquaintance,” work both as character pieces and examinations of a theme.

The album also occasionally stumbles with its writing as well. Songs like “Mothers” and “Made of Stone” aren’t as sharply drawn, and turn the record from a meditation on darker feelings to a tar pit. It’s also a pity, considering the highs of the album’s lone kinetic, driving song, “No Care,” that the trio only makes perfunctory attempted to vary the album’s sound, to push their abilities in any different direction.

Above all, sinking into the world of the record is to consider the parts of the mind that are usually better left unexplored, or only fully plunged in times of personal tragedy. Not to Disappear works, but that function doesn’t mean you’ll want to spend a lot of time with. It. That’s fine; it just reinforces how completely Daughter has realized its vision.

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