Comfort is an important word to North London songwriter and frontwoman Elena Tonra. It’s the most common noun to appear in all of her interviews. Even at the birth of their creation, the band’s name Daughter was born out of Tonra’s fondness for words with “gh” and acted as a reminder of her pleasant childhood. Additionally, her rationale for lyric-writing as cathartic release makes her feel comfortable, her decision to grow from a singer-songwriter to a band was born out of discomfort in being alone on stage, the rockier performances in the last part of their debut album tour was to cover up the nakedness of the poetry and her voice is comforting to the ears too in its intellectual breezy honesty – unlike other dreary melancholic acts that have child-like squeaky voices. It’s like a mild Florence Welch in accent without the need to shout aimlessly.
Listeners also gain a sense of comfort in Tonra’s lyrics, as she speaks of the vulnerabilities and fears of the lonely like they’re ubiquitous. However, the problem with the debut album If You Leave (IYL), was that the music was sometimes too set in his ways. As stylish and appropriate in mood as it was, it’s indistinguishable set of tracks combined with its drowsy repetitive minimalism could be unwelcomingly soporific. Tonra was also comfortable hiding behind metaphorical poetry (“Setting our insides on fire for fun” – ‘Youth’) rather than confronting specific issues.
Targeting the merciless dementia – a memory-draining disease that tortured Tonra’s grandmother – in their introductory single ‘Doing The Right Thing’ immediately hints at a shifted approach. Rather than just addressing emotional “life sucks” issues resonating with the youth market – which unsurprisingly made them Radio 1 darlings – Tonra focuses on bigger relevant matters, by channelling herself into the mind of a dementia victim: “I have lost my love/I just sit in silence/Let the pictures sulk.”
It’s easy to think that this is Elena Tonra’s solo project but Daughter also consists of Swiss Igor Haefeli (guitarist) and Frenchman Remi Aguiella (drummer) and the way they’ve evolved their instrumentation from fundamental mood makers to frantic atmosphere shape-shifters also speaks volumes about their progress. The sparkly glass-like glimmer and woozy waves that build steadily on ‘Alone/With You’ is reminiscent of Björk’s Vespertine. The evolution of Hadefeli’s distortion, the increasing time-lengths and epic spacious noise soundscapes on ‘New Ways‘, ‘Made of Stone’, ‘Fossa’ and ‘Mothers’ places them in the zone of post-rock (Sigur Ros, Explosions In The Sky) and tunnels into inventive alternative rock (sometimes sounding like U2, sometimes like Wolf Alice). The goth-folk on their debut starts to fade. However, the most surprising track is ‘No Care’ where the speed of the usually patient Tonra’s vocals – are motivated by Aguiella’s rapid drums and Haefeli’s driving grunge rock guitar – makes Elena Tonra sound a bit like Courtney Love or Shirley Manson.