Daughter are hardly the kind of band that warrant social media trending or big album rollouts, but the lack of buzz surrounding their new 2016 album Not To Disappear is somewhat baffling. Considering the number of people I know that claim to be “Daughter Fans,” it seems like I should’ve discussion of it SOMEWHERE on social media. But then again, I’m not sure I fully believe those people in the first place. Daughter’s debut album and previous EP’s were sad music, constructed to be blatantly depressing in a way that’s entirely emotionally draining. They’re like the Requiem For A Dream of bands, in that it’s okay to be into it sometimes, and even okay to tell people you like or love, but if its your favorite there’s probably something wrong with you. I guess I take back what I said: It’s not really all that shocking no one is talking about their new album. Daughter’s music isn’t made for the here and the now, it’s for when you need it, and hopefully you don’t need it all the time because if your favorite band is Daughter, I fear for your emotional state.
Right off the bat, “New Ways” shows us that Not To Disappear is going to be a static-y arena version of what we got with If You Leave. This natural move seems to suit the band just fine, and I’m here to say if the emotionally dense material they were putting out before is what you enjoyed about Daughter, then you’ll have enough to genuinely pique your curiosity. Take “Doing the Right Thing”, that features sparse and hollow sounding instrumentation and has plenty of memorable self-defeating lyrical quips, including lines like “I’ll lose my mind, then I’ll lose my children, then I’ll lose my love, then I’ll sit in silence”. This album’s weak points are when it reserves back to what the band was doing on their previous material, and songs like “Doing The Right Thing”, “To Belong”, “Made of Stone” and “Mothers” may all feature a glitzy anthemic post-rock sheen, but at their core they regress back down to the problematic tiredness of their previous material.
Not all these tracks are downers, and tracks like “How” come off as slightly boring but at the very least up lifting. But for me, Not To Disappear comes through in moments of true evolution. The band channel some of their inner Foals with songs like “No Care”, a track so sporadic and fast that you’d almost forget that you’re listening to Daughter. Even “Alone / With You”, which I wouldn’t call a great song by any stretch, seems to channel the sensibilities of the album while still making it sound fresh.
Daughter are in the precarious position of being locked into making variations of this sound for the rest of their careers. Sure, tracks like “No Care” or “Alone / With You” are a small breath of fresh air on an otherwise boring (albeit sleek) release, but this is an album that mostly rehashes the emotions, if not specifically the musical sounds, of their previous works. And even the orchestration of the songs is essentially just Daughter skewing slightly bigger and flirting with glitchy industrial feels, rather than folksy alt rock. Part of what makes Not To Disappear feel like such a letdown is to consider that this was Daughters chance to hit the mainstream. With a bigger stage ahead, they could’ve re-invented their sound and skewed the emotions of it to something happier and pop-friendly. They’ve failed in that regard. Instead we just have shades of grey, a phrase that seems to describe this follow up LP far too well.
Three years after their proper debut, it hadn’t occurred to me that people would even WANT a new Daughter album, mostly for the reasons I mentioned in the opening of this review. And a track like “No Care” singularly makes me wonder if Daughter have the potential to be a great band whose success is semi-warranted. Is it an incredible track? It’s a tad unremarkable, sure, but it’s certainly the most dynamic track on Not To Disappear and heads and tails the most aggressively boundary pushing of their discography. Unfortunately Daughter’s Sophomore release is just painting a wall the same color it was before; the paint might look fresher and it might look a little less worn down, but it’s the same color paint. And when you’re looking to shake things up, that’s going to come off as relatively boring. Grade: C-