By Emilie Medland-Marchen, February 2 2016 —
Daughter, who broke out with their impressive 2013 debut, If You Leave, just released Not To Disappear, a follow-up filled with nuanced electronics and breathy vocals. The band, fronted by London’s Elena Tonra, returns with their familiar airy and withdrawn style, but lacks the ambition of their initial release. Unfortunately, Not To Disappear feels more like a collection of 10 singles than a cohesive work.
“New Ways” starts off the album with an atmospheric track in keeping with the band’s reputation for sparse instrumentals and modulated guitar tones. But Tonra’s vocals lack the distinct personality of If You Leave and the song struggles to keep the listener’s attention. And after its lengthy intro, the track transitions to an extended guitar riff that annoys more than impresses.
Tonra’s weaker voice is paired with unbalanced backing instrumentals for the rest of the album, which delves into the realm of irritation at points. But there are some highlights throughout the release, particularly as it inches towards its conclusion.
“To Belong” starts out strong, combining an off-key backing with clever verses. But the song’s chorus feels devoid of lyrical creativity, instead resorting to repetition. The repetitive choruses throughout the album are a musical choice that seem out of place when combined with surprisingly jarring instrumentals.
Not to Disappear concludes with its strongest track, “Made of Stone,” which sees the band return to their signature sound. Tonra’s vocals shine on the track, supported by low-key string instrumentals rather than dominated by them. The slower pace reflects the sound of Daughter at their best — withdrawn, detached and deeply contemplative. It’s too bad their new album falls short of that more often than not.