Jai Price gets into it with Daughter‘s latest album.
Listening to Not to Disappear more than once is a harrowing exercise. It’s reminiscent of a Death Cab for Cutie album, in the sense that you have to be in a very specific (read: depressed) mood to fully enjoy it. There are some brief flashes of greatness, but these are few and buried under layers of angst. On first listen, it’s mildly enjoyable, and I was left thinking it would deserve another. By the end of the third play through, I paid dearly for my naivety.
Now, I’ve had my share of good albums killed by overexposure of my own making, but death in this angster’s paradise feels like a protracted and hellish affair. There’s simply nothing new to discover on subsequent listens, the dreary niche the band has carved out for itself worthy only of a one-time affair.
Admittedly, opener New Ways is one of the stronger pieces. Starting with drumbeats that sound like raindrops, guitars soon join the soaring keyboards. When Elena Tonra’s smooth voice joins, it is as though the current shifts, carrying the listener through chilled vibes. The here-and-there bass gives a sense of style, as yet more guitar rhythms are layered, creating a veritable sonic soundscape. Tonra is joined by guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella, crooning “I need new ways to waste my time” as the guitars wail and the drums continue to methodically plod along. It’s a solid opener with enough growth to keep it engaging.
How is another bright spot, injected with positivity in both the instrumentation and lyrics. This could be put down to a much more natural progression, as the song never gets bogged down in overproduction like its peers. It’s simple yet comforting, guitars rising and falling against the backdrop of a steady, laid-back drumbeat and subdued keyboards. Best of all, the show of restraint combines with a length that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Mothers is yet another example of how Daughter shines when it comes to minimalistic instrumentation, allowing Tonra’s voice to draw the listener into the abyss. If it weren’t for the irritating kazoo in the outro it would be hard to find fault. The blistering fast rundown that is No Care, again, showcases the band’s knack for creating a short, sharp and addictive piece. Flossa seems to fall into the same category, before its extensive, dull outro cripples it. It’s a shame that the album’s last three songs fail to leave any lasting impression, because there’s certainly some strong content scattered along its fatal shore.
The main problem with the album is it feels very samey. It’s not a wholly unpleasant venture, just a snoozefest without much incentive to revisit. There are some creative flourishes (“You’d better make me better” Tonra repeats over a haze of distortion on Numbers), but such bursts are short-lived. Alone/With You summarises the cry-me-a-river, one-dimensional tone of the album, as Tonra moans “I hate being alone/I hate sleeping alone”, before continuing to list things she hates. Bleh.
There’s definitely a time in everyone’s life where they’ll truly enjoy listening to Not to Disappear. That’s the album’s biggest problem; it’s too situational. It’s an easy album to empathise with if you’re feeling depressed, it all just gets a bit too dark by album’s end. The highlights barely redeem it, however they do provide brief respite from the monotony. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re feeling down in the dumps. If not, there’s little to draw you back time and time again. But then, maybe an album only needs to work once every now and then to be worth it.