Writer Ed King / Photographer Marika Kochiashvili
Daughter is a band that wears its heart on its sleeve. From the lament of the “wild youth” in their superb debut album If You Leave, to the introspective admissions of their sophomore LP Not to Disappear, you’re never far from an artery.
Now eight years and one global pandemic later, and the world scattered trio have let blood once again – releasing their fourth studio album, Stereo Mind Game, with all the haunting hallmarks that won them such acclaim since forming in 2010.
Recorded in both the UK and US, the 11 tracks and two instrumentals of Daughter’s latest LP – named after the mental gymnastics of lead singer Elena Tonra, as she finally puts the glass down in the album’s second track ‘Party’ – has a constant narrative running through it.
Themes of love, family, and companionship are fleshed out across both physical and emotional divides, with acceptance and fortitude ultimately holding the bonds together. The tone and production of Stereo Mind Game are as beautiful and melancholic as across Daughter’s previous albums, but this time there is a distinct message of hope underpinning the heartache.
‘Be On Your way’, the album’s opening full track, is a bittersweet love letter to a kindred spirit both discovered and set free – based on a ‘significant connection’ Tonra had with someone across the pond whist recording the new album.
And whist ‘Isolation’ explores the similar senses of loss and longing, only this time through the curled up cold skin in a once intimate bed, the final lines are an internal clarion call: “I’ll compose myself, I’ll get over it.” As the press release for Stereo Mind Game itself identifies, ‘after more than a decade spent depicting the darkest emotions, Daughter have made their most optimistic record yet.’
There are also some production approaches that separate, even elevate, this album from its predecessors, with Tonra sharing the vocals for the first time in ‘Dandelion’, ‘Future Lover’, and ‘Neptune’ – the latter seeing a choir rise in the end sequence, to counter the sea planet seclusion embodied in the main bulk of the track. Tonra herself admits: “It’s one of my favourite moments of the record… when suddenly the crowd joins. It’s a very lonely song. But even when I’ve felt the most alone, arms have reached out to me.”
Haefeli’s mournful guitar and melodies are as quick to the cut as ever, whilst Aguilella’s percussion run, march, and dance over the hills and instrumentals of this 44 minute landscape.
The only arguable downside to Stereo Mind Game, especially when judged alongside its siblings, is the lack of any discernible ‘lead’ single – that overwhelmingly chart friendly three minute earworm a radio plugger can confidently hang their hat (and career) on. But I’m sure neither the band nor the audience will not lose too much sleep over this.
Indeed, the focus on breaking new ground in their music and lyrics shows a rare resilience for a band who have not yet – in my humble opinion – put a foot wrong. Four albums in (including the 2017 computer game soundtrack, Music from Before the Storm) and each one standing confidently on its own two feet; bands of Daughter’s originality and consistency are a rare breed.
And as all good things notoriously come to an end, especially when you’re split by arable farmlands and the Atlantic Ocean, I am especially grateful the near decade gap between Not to Disappear and Stereo Mind Game was just a comma and not a full stop.
Instead, we have a wonderful evolution from an ensemble who pitch perfectly compliment each other, whilst continuing to bring fresh ideas to familiar ground. Fingers crossed it won’t be the last.
‘Party’ – Daughter
Stereo Mind Game by Daughter was released on 7 April, by 4AD and Glassnote Records – available through all major outlets and online platforms. For more on Daughter visit www.ohdaughter.com