We’ve been eagerly looking forward to Daughter’s debut album ever since the trio’s stunning first EP, His Young Heart was released in April 2011. Elena Tonra’s hauntingly beautiful voice slicing through softly understated guitar quickly caused a media storm; and follow-up EP The Wild Youth only built on that success as stunningly tragic lyrics, married with an almost unbearable sadness evident in Tonra’s voice, found their way into our hearts.
One could have been forgiven for expecting Daughter to come out with an album full of plodding acoustic guitar and uninteresting if pitch-perfect vocals. But throughout If You Leave, the dynamic rises and falls, as Tonra’s voice dances between a powerful cry and a lingering, tentative sound filled with fragility. Despite this, the melancholy in If You Leave can seem somehow repetitive, though still profound. They filled four-track EPs beautifully; but on a full-length album, for all their efforts to find musical variation, Daughter occasionally seem like they’re covering old ground. This is only a rare occurrence though, and for the most part we engage and empathize with Daughter’s message. One moment, crashing cymbals and guitars rapidly gathering speed are threatening to drown out the vocals, such as on ‘Lifeforms’, inspiring feelings of suffocation and helplessness. The next, a single note cuts into our hearts and Tonra cries out through the silence in a voice filled with pain, pleading for an end to her suffering.
‘Youth’ is the only song to re-appear from the EPs, and slots in perfectly, a tragic lament for “lovers that went wrong”. Daughter don’t cheer up either, later pleading “Don’t bring tomorrow/cos I already know I’ll lose you” on ‘Tomorrow’, a highlight. The title If You Leave instantly conjures images of loss and hearbreak, and these are themed carried on throughout, with the music perfectly accompanying the heart-rending lyrics, such as on ‘Human’; every thumping drumbeat is like a shot to the heart and the persistent guitars add desperation to Tonra’s insistence that “despite everything I’m still human”. This is an album that will tug on your heartstrings so hard that they’ll threaten to break.