For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of the Great Escape 2013, go here.
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London-based Daughter came to our American shores with a much bigger following than I expected. Having heard the splash they made on both BBC Radio 1 and 6Music and with Huw Stephens as a huge supporter, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to miss. But when they sold out our local mid-sized room at the Black Cat, I was astonished. I see so many bands that while popular at home, when they cross the pond really have to struggle to get a draw. Not so with Daughter. The night was filled with more “I love you”s than the Ed Sheeran gig I was at earlier this year. And it was from the girls mostly; girl crushes all over the place!
The night started off with the smooth tunes of Wilsen, a ‘dream folk’ band from New York City. What I loved about this band was the DIY nature of the drummer. Not hidden in the back, the drummer was sat to the left of singer Tamsin Wilson and augmented his full kit with a pill bottle (I don’t know if those were actual vitamin B-complex capsules inside though…), jingly brass elephants, a string of plastic bottle caps, and a length of ball chain dangling from his ride cymbal. This unique collection provided an intricate web to capture the ethereal folk sound. My only complaint was that with a female lead singer they were just a tiny bit too similar to Daughter to make for a well-rounded evening of music.
When it was time for the main event, Elena Tonra was her usual demure beautiful self, seemingly overwhelmed by the attention. Once mid-set, the adulation was so intense that she stopped and dissolved into a fit of embarrassed giggles. But truth be known, she deserved it. Having reviewed her album here and loved her earlier EPs, I knew that it was going to be a stunning uplifting experience. The lyrics can be heart-wrenching and the music is melancholy, but her delivery and stage presence were a thing to be seen.
They opened the set with ‘Shallows’ and the place fell silent. No bar noise, no whispered comments to neighbors, no shuffling about the room. Tonra delivered a note perfect, clear as a bell rendition; the audience was spellbound. There were even girls around me crying. ‘Candles’ had everyone breathlessly chanting, “blow out all the candles, blow out all the candles”. In fact, the night was filled with people singing along in the most reverent, captivated way I have seen. Truly, she had us all transfixed.
They swept through their set ably covering both their recent album and their well-loved EPs, with Igor Haefeli on guitar, Remi Aguilella on drums, and touring member ‘Luke’ on keys and guitar getting plenty of love as well. When ‘Home’ was announced as their final song, such a cheer took over than Tonra exclaimed, “I miss you already” and had to pull away from the mike for a second to recompose herself. I cannot quite tell if this kind of adulation is difficult for her to accept in general, or if we were a particularly adoring crowd that threw her off balance. Either way her adorableness is an apt companion to the gorgeous music that the band produces.
After the cut: the set lists from the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Daughter with Wilsen at Black Cat, Washington DC – 2nd May 2013
The former solo project of Elena Tonra, London trio Daughter have released their first full length ‘If You Leave’ on 4AD. Ten tracks of pure gorgeousness, ‘If You Leave’ is reminiscent of the EPs that came before it, but shows a development and sophistication that only comes from working hard and finding your voice. While Tonra was stellar as a singer on her own, the advent of Daughter as a band was a move that cemented the unique and lustrous sound.
I hate to compare Tonra’s voice to Florence Welch, but it’s there, pre-‘Ceremonials’ when Welch was more about the music and less about the power and production. A better comparison would be to replace the electronics from Sia, take away the little girl quality from Regina Spektor, add the evocative lyricism of Evanescence’s Amy Lee and then you would have an idea of Daughter’s sound. They maintain a decidedly delicate tone. Solidly indie, it never veers close enough to singer/songwriter, alt-folk or girl rock for me to give it any of those labels. The folk references might come from an eerie similarity to long ago Suzanne Vega. Perhaps that would be true if Daughter were still a solo effort, but guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella create such a soundscape behind Tonra’s ethereal vocals that it deviates into mysticism rather than folk.
The album opens with positively haunting vocals layering and entwining with the peal of the guitar in the smashing tune ‘Winter’. Replete with the longing of loss, this track sets the tone for the rest of the sparse beauty woven throughout the album. One of the best tracks found on the earlier EPs has thankfully been included on this album. ‘Youth’ is a perfect storm of songwriting, soaring instrumentation and beauty. Despite her youth (yes, pun intended), the maturity of Tonra’s lyrics belies her age: “And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones / ’cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone / we’re setting fire to our insides for fun / collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our home / it was a flood that wrecked this home”.
Simplicity wins out on this album; every track title is a single word. That is not to say that this is a simple album though; it has depth and complexity. I could listen to this album over and over, in fact I have, the EPs too. I think it not only stands up to repeated listening, it builds with each listen. The guitar is delicate, understated, the drumming insistent and evocative, the voice is smooth and layered. With not too much going on at once, you can really hear what they were doing with each layer, flowing and swirling and never, never boring. The build it gives you is satisfying, especially in ‘Human’, the slightly more upbeat track on the album.
This is an absolute stunner of an album. Do yourself a favour and get a hold of it soon. Daughter’s star is on the rise, even the pop luminary Katy Perry recently Tweeted about their music. This spring has Daughter touring Europe and North America, but they’ll be back on home soil for a few quick dates in April; see dates below.
Daughter’s debut effort ‘If You Leave’ is now out on 4AD.
Monday 22nd April 2013 – Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Tuesday 23rd April 2013 – Oxford Town Hall
Wednesday 24th April 2013 – Bournemouth Old Fire Station
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 28th January 2013 at 6:00 pm
It’s time for Daughter‘s first official video, for ‘Still’. The song will feature on the band’s debut album ‘If You Leave’, out on the 18th of March on 4AD. (I have to wait until the 30th of April for the American release on Glassnote, rats!) Like all of Daughter’s material, this is another hauntingly beautiful number. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 12th October 2012 at 4:00 pm
Daughter made their American late night television debut last night on the Late Show with David Letterman. Watch the video below of the band playing ‘Youth’. This follows Michael Kiwanuka‘s guest turn in June.
The band’s current single on 4AD is ‘Smother’; you can read my review of the single here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 23rd August 2012 at 12:00 pm
London melancholic folkies Daughter is having an exemplary year. We will look back at 2012 as the year where the trio not only impressed the suits at 4AD to secure a UK record contract but did the same with New York City’s Glassnote Records, who have managed to catapult both Two Door Cinema Club and Mumford and Sons into the heights of super stardom. This year will surely be remembered by me, if only for the amazing performance at SXSW at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary that I was privileged to experience. On the 1st of October, the band will be releasing a new single, ‘Smother’ (whose title I dearly hope won’t be too confused with the Wild Beasts‘ album of the same name).
Early on in the song are the lines “I want all that is not mine / I want him but we’re not right”, sung by Elena Tonra with a gentle lilt at the end of each line. The words, as they go on, prove that Tonra is not through talking about the pain of lost love. As in previous radio hit ‘Landfill’, ‘Smother’ sounds about as bleak as a suicide note; beginning first with soft guitar, the song swells to the chorus, in which Tonra asserts about her death “what a mess I will leave / to follow…” and a repeat of the lines “In the darkness I will meet my creators / they will agree / that I’m a suffocator”, when all of a sudden, the title suddenly becomes clearer. So it is about suicide, isn’t it? It’s easy to think this way until you reach the end, when you get to the most telling moment of all: “sorry if I smothered you / sorry if I smothered you / sometimes wish I’d stayed inside my mother / never to come out”. Talk about getting socked in the gut.
Have you ever experienced so much pain, so much sorrow in a relationship that broke down, so much that you wish you’d never been born? ‘Smother’ distills all this pain, neatly and so gorgeously in 4 minutes and 3 seconds. It’s the kind of pain you’d never wish on anyone, but with Elena Tonra’s songwriting genius, it’s okay, because you’re left feeling, yes, I have felt such pain. And like her, I’ve come out of it. And survived to live another day. Sometimes we should stop to applaud such a victory.
‘Smother’, Daughter’s next single, will be released on 7″ vinyl on the 1st of October on 4AD; it’s their first single with the label. It will be backed by a re-recorded version of ‘Run’, which was previously available on the band’s free ‘Demos’ EP.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th July 2012 at 4:00 pm
Last month during Jubilee weekend, Communion Records put on Bushstock 2012, the folk label’s very own 1-day festival. This year we sent Braden to cover the event, and you can read his review of the day’s performances here. But for you on this Friday afternoon, we have a unique performance by Elena Tonra Daughter at TOMS Secret Garden Stage, performing ‘Tomorrow’. Watch it in all its sun-dappled beauty below.