January 25, 2016

TEST SPIN: Daughter — Not To Disappear

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This past weekend, I spent a period of about 24 hours intermittently watching snow plaster itself against the homes and roads of the neighborhood I grew up in. The sky was a constant, distant grey that seemed to feed off of the continuous snowfall instead of starving from it. Standing outside, leaning against a shovel with drenched gloves and hearing the crackle of ice shifting in my hair as I lifted my gaze, I stared straight into the sky and could find no single trace of sunlight.

We don’t get snowfall like this too often in South-Central Pennsylvania; by the time you clear to the end of your driveway, the other end is drowning under inches of snow again. Crossing the street becomes an all-day affair. Amazon shut down its factory on Saturday. By the time the snow had reached 20 inches, I was listening to the only band that felt appropriate to match the bleak yet exquisite landscape.

In their 2013 album If You Leave, the three artists who make up the band Daughter created a space that was both feeble and quite strong through its sense of futility. This is a band that knows how to draw you in and hold you close, whether it’s what you want or not. Say what you will, you can’t listen to “Smother” and not feel that strong twinge of guilt that inspires some kind of self-pity and remorse, even if you have no logical reason to feel it. Elena Tonra’s personally written and personal lyrics, are both passive and seductive, leading and empty when sung in her haunting voice. The muted sorrow of Igor Haefeli’s guitar and Remi Aguilella’s deliberately aimless drumming don’t cease to insist that you follow her through her memories of recent and remote sorrows.

But compared to their previous album, Not to Disappear ventures several layers deeper. Released on January 15, this is an album suited for a winter storm like Jonas, which drives immense distances between people simply by the methodical piling up of miniscule building blocks from the ground level. It still has all the same soft calls of angst; the line “I don’t want to belong / to you / to anyone” in the aptly titled “To Belong” is repeated until you can’t ignore it anymore. And once more there are the sorrowful lilts in Tonra’s vocals — “And when it’s dark / I’ll call out in the night for my mother / But she isn’t coming back for me / Cause she’s already gone” — which echo towards the recesses of your thoughts until you can’t shake them out. But the weight of this album is different. It calls for more attention as you listen to it, it calls out not just sorrowfully but also angrily this time. “Alone / With You” and “No Care” sound like drunken masterpieces trying to pirouette across a stage.

With these two songs, more than with any of the others in the album, Tonra’s emotions seem far more aligned with Simple Plan than with the typical indie-folk type, but the band still manages to express them in a way that strikes one as being part of a wholly natural progression from older songs like “Youth” and “Shallows.”

The beauty of this album is not simply that it’s an evolved continuation of their previous releases, but that it so seamlessly provides a window into an internal dialogue that flutters, rages, ebbs, sputters and ultimately spins off into the distance, murmuring, “You’ll find love, kid, it exists,” in spite of the immense void you’ve suddenly found yourself sitting in. I recommend Not to Disappear to anyone who isn’t currently scrolling through Spotify to find some pre-made playlist for finding your inner Miami Beach vibe — if that’s you, then you probably want to transfer to a different school anyway. If you do feel up to it, then definitely give this album a spin, but make sure you have the heat cranked up and a picture of your dog somewhere close at hand, because it’s an emotional ordeal. You eventually begin to internalize these songs in a visceral way, and can’t help but question whether perhaps you’re destined to blunder up and down some icy driveway, bent over the weight of your shovel but finding that each time you look behind you, your work has been erased by the drifting down of something new to be cleared.

Jessie Weber is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]