So, Sam. We’ve had a pretty good hit rate with Blind Taste Tests so far. I was sucked in by Lianne La Havas, you became a fan of Phoebe Bridgers. It’s tempting to just stop there…
But instead, I’m recommending one of my go-to albums in the hope that you can see why I love it so much…
I just put If You Leave by Daughter on while writing this intro to it, and what astounded me was the reminder that it only came out in 2013. It feels like it’s been with me forever.
I always find it hard to predict what you’ll like, Sam, but I am confident you at least won’t hate this album. When I think of the artists we both love (Bon Iver, The XX, Laura Marling, even, maybe, Phoebe Bridgers) there are elements of all of them in this album.
But Daughter are also incredibly unique. Elena Tonra writes hauntingly beautiful lyrics and has the ethereal voice to elevate them. There will be at least two songs on this album that you will recognise from soundtracks and the like – I just hope that, when you do recognise them, you see why this is in my top 20 albums of all time.
As always thank you for recommending me something you genuinely know I’ll like as the comparisons you’ve made above couldn’t be more on the money here. Going in, I have genuinely never heard of Daughter, nor do I recognise any of the song titles. Perhaps it’s just me being forgetful, but I’m intrigued that you say I’ll recognise some of these tracks. Here goes.
From the off, the one thing I instantly hear is Florence Welch’s voice. I cannot explain how similar Elena Tonra sounds to Florence on every moment here to me. I mean the quieter moments of Florence’s vocal style, of course, but if you told me they were sisters, I would believe you. I can see the comparisons instantly on opener ‘Winter’ too. The echoey plucked guitar of Romy from The xx, the vast scale of distant sound from early Bon Iver, the ethereal vocal similar to London Grammar, it’s right in the middle of the Venn Diagram of our tastes; I’m sold by track one.
A quick google tells me that this album was released just months before London Grammar’s debut record, by far the closest comparison I can make here, two bands who clearly got the same inspiration after hearing Romy, Oliver and Jamie xx’s first two albums. I feel bad doing so many comparisons so early on, but as each song comes on, I find myself thinking, ‘this is familiar,’ despite never hearing any of this music before.
The scale of ‘Youth’ feels like a big step forward for the album, the distant guitar and reverb making it sound huge. I really enjoy Elena’s voice on this song especially, even if at times I wish she would give just a little bit more. She sounds like someone who properly lets go when she is performing these songs live, which I kind of wish you got a taste of on these early tracks.
I’m now four songs in and I’m still convinced this is a Florence and the Machine side project. She sounds EXACTLY the same.
‘Lifeforms’ as the centrepiece of the album feels like the next moment where the sound is pushed somewhere new. I love the noisiness of the guitars on that. It really enveloped me as I was listening, the sort of sound where I was glad to be wearing headphones to get the full effect. Up to now I feel like I know exactly how the rest of this album is going to sound, they have a very set style and merely add elements to it occasionally.
‘Human’ ends up throwing that thought way out of my head and really stands out here. On first listen, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing as, even though it’s certainly a change in dynamic, much more upbeat and ‘Indie’, I found myself longing for the drama and mystical sounds heard elsewhere. ‘Touch’ brings it back to that again, making ‘Human’ stand out even more as literally the only drastically different moment here.
The closing two songs ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Shallows’ both sort of cancel each other out, as they end up both feeling like a proper closer for the album. Both have an extended build-up of emotion and layer upon layer of sound, before really driving forward in the closing minute. ‘Amsterdam’ is my favoured of the two the closing moments. ‘Shallows’ just ends up feeling like a second ending, which is a bit of a wasted opportunity with the songs right next to each other here.
And like that the album ends. As far as your statement that I ‘definitely won’t hate it’ well you are definitely right there Fran. I liked a lot about this album, even from a first listen. I loved Elena’s voice and presence on the record, I loved the scale of everything and how quiet other moments can feel and there was enough depth lyrically that I can understand why you would be so invested in this as an album. As to why it’s never crossed my path before, I think that’s just down to how similar this is to so many other albums of the time. Is this more interesting than The xx? No. Is it more radio friendly and accessible than London Grammar similarly titled debut If You Wait? No. Is it as musically interesting as Bon Iver’s self titled record? No. If You Leave is going to be an album I go back to for sure though, there’s so much here that appeals to my tastes so just like last time you’ve recommended perfectly for me.
Words by Sam Atkins.