When I saw The National play the Greek in Los Angeles, I completely missed Daughter opening up for them. I’d really enjoyed their debut album, so it bummed me out, but I got over it pretty quickly. If there’s any band operating with the same deftness in terms of melancholy moods and textures as The National, it’s Daughter. All that to say, their new album, Not to Disappear, is the sort of album where I’d be kicking myself for days if I missed their opening spot. More importantly, it’s the kind of record where I’d be scratching my head as to why they were the opening act at all. This is the music of a headlining group.
That’s not to minimize the strengths of their prior record, If You Leave. It’s one of the stronger debuts in recent memory. Still, on Not to Disappear, they’ve evolved in every facet—and for the better. Where the first album could get a bit repetitive in its track listing, this one boasts a sound whose structures change and surprise on every song. It makes the debut sound like a great foundation, but one they always intended to build upon. The same beautiful sadness which permeates the debut is here too, but it’s spoken of and looked at from directions I didn’t know it was possible to take Daughter’s sound in.
You don’t really need to look further than track one, “New Ways,” to see things are a little more confident and creative this time around. By the end of the song, they’ve built up to a muted crescendo Slowdive would be proud of in its stretching, lush walls of guitar. In general, the influence of shoegaze groups seems to be a bit more pronounced this time around. It takes “How” all of about 15 seconds until it has grown its sound so big and glacial that it totally envelops you even in its simple riffs.
While their sound remains more on the Cocteau Twins dreamy side of the spectrum and doesn’t really ride into the cacophonous noise of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, it has still grown in its breadth by a wide margin. Think The Cure’s Disintegration, Slowdive’s Souvlaki or even Coldplay’s first two records. Daughter has that majestic, glacial sound and the fire to warm you when it gets too cold.
There are still a few songs on here which would’ve fit in fine on their debut. “Numbers” and “Doing the Right Thing” aren’t huge steps forward in evolution, even if they do bear the marks of their newer expansion of powers in spots. It doesn’t hamper Not to Disappear from being a terrific album even slightly though. It’s just a testament that there was more mileage available from the more stripped-down territory of their debut. Even though their voyages off the beaten path are welcome, returning to where they started is no crime.
When it comes to going off in a new direction, it never happens more so than on the song “No Care.” I really never thought I’d be one to refer to a song by this band as “badass” but I really can’t think of a better descriptor. The rolling bassy guitar lines, the weeping higher guitar riff, the frantic drumming and Elena Tonra’s spitfire yet relaxed vocal delivery all join hands and start spinning in a dizzying display of how this band can definitely rock out when it wants to. It’s not some “When the Levee Breaks” guitar odyssey, but it’s certainly a different Daughter than we’re used to, and it’s one I hope shows up more often as the group continues.
Not to Disappear is everything you could want from a sophomore release. It’s got enough of the debut in it that you’re getting what you came for with a ton of surprises to make sure you keep going on this journey with them from here on out. If you’ve ever loved music where the technology of pedal boards is capable of creating as human a sound as any troubadour with an acoustic guitar alone, this is a record you need in your collection. Rest assured, I’ll never miss a Daughter concert again.