The London trio Daughter usually gets filed under folk or indie-folk, but their music bears no traces of strum-and-stomp barnstorming or campfire confessional. The band interprets folk the same way Jason Molina records do: dusky guitars, spare arrangements, sparse beats and anguished vocals thrust into the spotlight. Daughter’s full-length debut, If You Leave, softens this stark foundation with chilly atmospheric effects, lyrics haunted by romantic angst and rebirth, and Elena Tonra’s low-lit voice, which is as hazy and tortured as Chan Marshall sounded on early Cat Power records. The results are often hushed and delicate; “Smother” is lovely slow-core, both “Amsterdam” and “Winter” resemble Bat for Lashes, and the relatively upbeat “Human” echoes the whimsy of Sigur Ros’s folkier moments.
Yet Daughter isn’t easily pigeonholed; If You Leave‘s biting moments sting like an icy wind. “Youth” transforms from a somber lullaby into a galloping, battle-scarred treatise on failed relationships (“If you’re in love, then you are the lucky one/’Cause most of us are bitter over someone”), while electric guitar simmers underneath the surface of “Lifeforms” before crescendoing into distressed post-rock howls. The record is desolate and desperate in equal measures. Little by little, If You Leave‘s portrayals of loveless lives, dissonant relationships and bleak futures burrow under the skin, lingering long after the album ends.