Signing records in Truck Store on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Daughter are calm and gracious. A few hours later, and just a little further down the Cowley Road, the north London indie-rock trio turn deftly sincere as they play hard-hitting songs from new second album Not To Disappear.
After debut If You Leave, Not To Disappear is not a blind step into the void. Their infamous brooding capacity of vocals intertwined with Igor Haefeli’s shredding guitar is still apparent. Rather than reinventing their sound for this new album, the group have clasped onto all that they did best, and stepped it up a level. With a smoky strobe mist on stage, they fill the sold-out O2 Academy not only with bodies, but with a certain hazy vibe.
First tracks ‘How’ and ‘Alone / With You’ resonate with the same kind of cool intensity that Daughter are famous for. Ruminating, arching electric guitar lines hum underneath Elena Tonra’s hushed vocals. A luxurious synth-led ebb and flow resounds throughout ‘Alone / With You’, and it seems that what has changed since 2013’s If You Leave is their mindset: a greater confidence in experimen tation, in the way the band pore over their instruments and set into their own groove right from the off.
Amongst this ambience – what can only be described as sheer vibey-ness – rhythms are subtle yet defined. On drums, Remi Aguilella is crucial in providing the momentum for the percussive backbeat that heads out in dialogue with the synth in ‘Numbers’, or the time changes between verse and chorus in ‘Human’, ultimately leaving the song in a lush meandering groove.
There is a charming discord between the intensity of the band’s art and their down-toearth nature. Between songs, Tonra sips out of a red tin camping flask, overwhelmed at the whoops coming from the crowd she looks out on. Suitable for the emotional and gripping nature of their sound, the room is dripping with sweat, and audience and band alike quickly begin to feel clammy. “At least I’m up here – no one can smell me”, Tonra quietly says. While I’m sure the audience would like to be even closer to her, the frontwoman’s timidity often makes it feel as though she’d prefer to be playing in a different room from other humans altogether.
Old songs provoke particular claps and squeals from the tightly-packed audience. Tonra, ever coy, shyly smiles and shrugs. Socalled “old” and “new” songs seamlessly give way for each other in this set: 2013’s ‘Amsterdam’ rings with Tonra’s whispered “I’ve been thinking I should see someone / Just to check that I’m alright”. On Not To Disappear’s lead single ‘Doing the Right Thing’, Tonra is sensitive enough to write from the perspective of her grandm o t h e r , troubled w i t h Alzheimer’s and at a loss of what to make as she slowly loses her grip on the world around her.
These lyrics may seem morbid, depressing even, but the starkness with which Tonra sings them, and the serenity to which they are lifted amongst fuzzy guitar and rippling drums, does not sink the evening into miserable territory. Instead, Tonra’s vocals fill a space, lingering over instrumental rhythms and substantiating a void – this modern industry – that is screaming out for truthful no-nonsense, no-hyperbole writing. In writing lines as honest as “Oh there has only been one time where we fucked and I felt like a bad memory” (‘No Care’) or “Sometimes I wish I’d stayed inside my mother” (‘Smother’), Tonra dispels any myth that emotional frankness has no place in pop.