Elena Tonra and co return with a warm, comforting hug of a record that’s well worth the seven-year wait
It’s been a long time since we last heard from Daughter. Seven years in fact, since the trio released Not To Disappear, a beautifully intimate, sad beast of an album that comforted many through those bleak early months of the year.
Since then, apart from a video game soundtrack and a solo project from singer Elena Tonra called Ex:Re in 2018, it’s been all quiet on the Daughter front. Yet within the first notes of the introduction track on Stereo Mind Games, it’s clear that this has been an album well worth taking its time over.
The Daughter formula remains the same – Tonra’s mournful vocals framed by skeletal, fragile arrangements courtesy of Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella. It’s reminiscent at times of The xx‘s debut – all deliberate pacing, unexpected pauses, and the impression of a torrent of emotion bubbling just under the surface.
The themes of the album are isolation and a yearning for connection – themes that are presumably pretty universal after the global troubles of the last few years. Tonra has one of the voices that it’s impossible to tear your attention away from, even when she drops to an almost inaudible whisper. It’s the emotion in her vocal that’s compelling, especially when she delivers a line “For fear that I’d forget, the worst night of my life, or even worse, the best”.
That line is taken from Party, an affecting mediation on alcohol and the damage it can cause, which steadily builds up momentum through the song, delivered in a kind of bittersweet haze. Although that woozy, dreamlike feel is present through the album, there’s various moments that embellish the Daughter sound – the skittery backbeats on Be On Your Way for example, or the glitchy cut-ups on the short interlude Missed Calls. Most affecting of all is the unexpected and gradual introduction of choral voices on Neptune, which complements Tonra’s vocals in the most gorgeous way.
Swim Back has a beautiful swell to it (helped by London orchestral group The 12 Ensemble) that continues the lyrical motifs of separation and distance. “I just need to erase distance” runs one particularly memorable line, set to a tune it’s impossible not to sadly dance to while staring wistfully into the middle distance. Similar themes are explored in the stripped back Isolation, one of the album’s more poignant tracks, with the line “It will likely kill me, that I must live without you” as Tonra contemplates an unachievable love, thousands of miles across the ocean.
Future Lover is another standout moment, built around a drum loop and a naggingly catchy chorus about insomnia, while the lovely Dandelion talks of separation anxiety again, as Tonra finds herself “staring into the void, waiting for replies”. Only really To Rage doesn’t quite hit the emotional highs of the other songs, although even that is followed by the quiet intensity of the closing Wish I Could Cross The Sea, which seems like the perfect end point for the record.
It may have been seven years in the making, but Stereo Mind Games was well worth the wait. It’s a warm, comforting hug of a record, a friend to reassure you that things are all okay, even when it feels like it’s all falling apart. The type of soundtrack we all need in times like this.