Daughter: 'Stereo Mind Games' provides a reminder of how essential this band are
Updated: Apr 26
Despite being an album of two halves, the London-formed indie folk trio do enough to remind us of their beauty and importance.
Daughter are arguably one of the most underappreciated bands of the past decade.
Formed in 2010, singer Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella’s captivating indie folk sound caught the imagination of music lovers across the globe. Their first two records - If You Leave (2013) and Not to Disappear (2016) - were extremely well received by the critics and they owe a lot of this acclaim to being championed by the likes of Radio 1 and other mainstream outlets.
And it wasn’t hard to see why: the trio create a unique brand of indie rock both emotional and desolate. Music to put on the early commute to work and stare out the window as if you’re living inside a movie montage and the rest of the world is burning around you!
2016’s Not to Disappear felt like a massive record at the time – as powerful and heart-grabbing a record as would be released that year. They say great music follows depressing times and Daughter are proof of this. With the arrival of the Trump presidency and the disaster of Brexit, it’s hard to describe 2016 as anything other than bleak. Arriving on the top of a hill like knights in shining armour, this was one band who, whilst unable to fix the problems of the world, did a fantastic job in soothing our turmoil.
In 2023, as the cost of living crisis dominates our thoughts, we find ourselves in a similarly depressing position. So it feels especially appropriate to have Daughter back to give us a shoulder to cry on. Back in January, they announced a new album called Stereo Mind Games was set for release in April, describing it in a press release as their "most optimistic yet".
The first flavour of new music simply blew our socks off. It’s hard to describe album opener ‘Be On Your Way’ as anything other than the perfect return from a band instantly wanting to grab our attention. Their comeback single just oozes longing and desire. The track is about that enduring connection you have with someone despite the odds being stacked against you (in this case, for Tonra, the Atlantic Ocean). Despite her scenario, Tonra reveals an optimism for the future, ending the song on a hopeful note: “I have a feeling that we’ll repeat this evening”. A lot of credit has to be given to Haefeli’s gorgeous riff which supports the singer’s tale with spine-tingling accuracy.
On the gritty ‘Party’, Tonra reflects on the night she gave up on alcohol and the conflicting voices in her head in making the decision: “I refuse to believe that there’s a problem / I could stop if I want, I just don’t want to yet” she admits within the opening verse. The singer has claimed the second track on the new album to be the one she’s most proud of and there’s a subtle power to its sullen beauty.
For the first half of ‘Neptune’, Tonra’s voice is placed front and centre to hair rising effect. As the band come in and the atmospheric soundscapes widens, a supporting choir adds to the sense of loneliness she’s portraying. The most memorable moment on the album comes with the following track ‘Swim Back’. It sets electronics against a London string orchestra 12 Ensemble and has the band exploring new musical territory – aside from the opener the one track with the most listen back desirability.
It’s not all plain sailing, unfortunately. Around two-thirds in, over a few tracks (‘Junkmail’, ‘Future Lover’, ‘(Missed Calls)’) there’s a gradual lull as engagement with the album begins to wane. By the time tenth track ‘Isolation’ comes along, the temptation for a quick glance at the track list to see how long is left is all too great - which can never be considered a positive sign!
‘To Rage’ on the other hand cures this impatience, providing a reminder of why the fuss over Daughter is still necessary seven years after their last record. The penultimate track is packed with warm atmosphere and another spine-tingling guitar riff to support Tonra’s stunning vocals and heartbreaking lyrics (“keeps me awake still now / retracing what happened / I had to rage” she contemplates within the final verse).
Stereo Mind Games is perhaps defined by being a tale of two halves. The first few tracks steal the show, possessing a range of beautiful and spine-tinglingly stunning songs best enjoyed whilst reminiscing about past romantic failings. From the mid-point on it’s difficult not to find yourself wanting something new, yet they manage to win us back with a stunning conclusion. Daughter do enough on their third album to prove why their music holds up after such a long absence.