When people talk about Daughter, I think their 2012 EP, His Young Heart. 2013’s If You Leave was good–I’m as much of a sucker for “Youth” as the next person–but His Young Heart was what made me fall in love with Daughter. The first time I heard “Candles,” I felt like singer, Elena Tonra, was speaking directly to my soul. I mean, that protagonist, that’s me. And “Landfill” is another gut wrencher.
Then this fall, I got to see Daughter perform at Boston Calling. A band so shy they kept turning to the crowd for reassurance of their place on stage, I realized the band and I had more than just the experience in their lyrics in common. So clearly I was pretty psyched for their latest album.
Now if we’re gonna get real honest and explicit, the reason I connect so die-heartedly with Daughter and the song “Candles” has to do with the handling of intimacy in a modern, realistic setting. Relationships right now, in an age of social media in place of socializing, are very much nontraditional. Dating is barely a thing. Hooking up is huge—and now actually acceptable for women (’cause, guess what, we’re allowed to be sexual beings too)! And on the real: it’s a difficult world to navigate. But, Daughter to save the day. This album is coming out right on the cusp of me reflecting on and struggling with my habits in navigating this world. We’ll get back to that.
The first song I heard off Not to Disappear was the single, “Doing the Right Thing.” Upon first listen, I liked it. The lyrics seem to have this very real, scared-of-life-because-of-loss theme to them and it’s got this wonderful mix of ethereal, acoustic, electric sounds to it. But then a couple days ago, I read that the song is written from the point of view of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and my mind was blown. This song is rooted in fear and loss, the fear from having lost everything this narrator has ever known. My granny struggled with severe dementia in the last 10 (give or take) years of her life; the last time I saw her, she only had the slightest idea of who I was. Yet the hardest part of it all may have been watching my family grapple with how to care for her, how to know if they were doing the right thing. It’s impossible to really say what that is. But, despite obviously not being written by someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, this song sheds some light on the horrifying difficulty of this situation, for all involved. This song means a lot to me now and I say that with all the bias I have in me, however it’s hard-hitting, honest narrative is undeniable. And that’s what amazes me about Daughter—their ability to tell stories.
As I mentioned earlier, many of these tales are related to what I’d argue is not modern love, but modern intimate relationships. “Numbers,” as noted in the first lines, is pretty much your worst hookup experience. It calls upon the dueling desires to feel better from some sort of intimate, interpersonal interaction and to distance oneself from that person as much as possible, to feel numb. I think this is so poignant because yes, there are times you want the comfort of another person and yes, there are times you just want the experience and not the other person attached to it. This same sentiment is retold on “Alone / With You.” Maybe this song just strikes a chord with me because I absolutely hate sharing a bed. I make the exception for best friends and when vvvvvv drunk, but otherwise, wow, is my insomnia never more of a bitch than when there’s another person in bed with me. Now my personal disgust (code for fear, but we’re not gonna go there) when it comes to commitment, which is currently being challenged (yay! but also, ‘bout to run screaming for the hills), has me really relating to these songs. When your ‘with you’s’ haven’t always been superb, it’s really difficult convincing yourself a new ‘you’ can be otherwise. “New Ways”, the album opener, gets into this a bit, addressing both the desire to bolt and the mysterious compulsion to stay. As someone who relates, I’ll back them up; it can be really difficult breaking your own, self-protecting, self-destructive bad habits.
This is probably the part where I’m supposed to offer some enlightening solution. I don’t have one. So we’re gonna move on to the next song on the album because it’s my favorite.
“No Care” is a complete curveball for Daughter. A band that does ballsy in the most modest way possible, this punk-tinged song challenges every expectation you have of them. Daughter has a decent alternative rock instrumental backing, but this track brings their all. ‘Cause, guess what, Torna doesn’t care anymore. Except she does, in the most essential way. In this song, she, despite her every effort not to, digs into a deep fear stemming from intimate relationships. Yes, hooking up is fun. I firmly believe it’s something people should do. It’s experience. But then there are also the people you, in the most terrifying way, care about. Torna hits the scary moment with these people square on the head with the line: “How I wanted you to promise we would only ever make love”. And I don’t even think this is speaking to love in the way we idealistically do, but instead to respect. And I think with that line and this song, you remember—regardless what you’re looking for—what matters.
Some of the songs of Not to Disappear feel a bit like filler. They don’t stand out the same way these others do. But overall, the album carries with a similarly successful momentum as His Young Heart did. And it has so goddamned much to teach. Nothing in Daughter’s songs, not even the admission of feeling numb while hooking up, looks down upon the experiences modern women have as liberated sexual beings. In my book, that’s big. That’s, as shitty as this reality is, not something you come across every day. So yeah, I’m fairly infatuated with Daughter’s new album. On top of its dope, feminist lyrics, the vocals float flawlessly, while the instrumentals ground it in a rougher, yet still atmospheric reality. This album is, to me, the real, honest writing of His Young Heart, with more experience, both life and musical. And I—yes, this time I do mean it—love it.