A dandelion in a mirror.

Stereo Mind Game

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Daughter make you feel ashamed of listening to music that’s shallow. If we had an Album of the Week (or Month) category, you can bet your remaining earbuds battery time this album would win both. Repeatedly.

The first time I heard about the band was on the KEXP radio station’s YouTube channel when I was randomly trying to find new music when I landed on Daughter’s performance, I went wow, this is something really good.

As you know, mainstream music can’t satisfy all our demands because it has to target the largest possible audience. So, by nature, it can’t satisfy all of our senses. Fortunately, there are bands of Daughter’s calibre. Bands that offer such aural quality, you want to rewind over and over.

Music that doesn’t bore for a second

The album’s title is not misleading as every component, every word, and every tune make sense. More importantly, songs are composed in such a way they play games with your mind and ears. And your expectations.

It’s been a long time since I experienced this kind of sensation – intentionally rewinding to hear the same part of a song (songs, in this case!) over and over and over.

Songs such as “Party”, “To Rage”, “Neptune”, or “Future Lover” excel at playing games with the listener. They are very dynamic, never boring, and often surprise greatly. When you don’t expect it, Daughter switch to higher gears with thirty or forty seconds left to completely blow you away. And that doesn’t apply just to music but about that later.

The sound is often immersive even without spatial audio features. Listen to the songs on your earbuds or headphones and you’ll be mesmerised as I’ve been for a few weeks now.

In short, the album is musically rich, ranging from instrumental, to keyboard, drums, percussion, or bass parts.

Daughter – Party (Official Video) – YouTube

Themes of alcoholism, long-distance relationships, and waiting

The main themes are easy to identify, from tackling alcoholism, or rather, regaining sobriety, to being fed up with long-distance relationships, to ending one.

Elena Tonra’s voice plays a huge role in all the songs because you can guess the mood and what’s going on – a rare skill to have and even rarer to see.

In some songs, Elena’s singing is assertive, and calm, sending the message of being OK with what’s happening, e.g., “Be on your way”, a song about ending a relationship that’s no longer fulfilling:

I won’t hold you back
Time throws us along
And there is never just one human
That the heart should lone belong

Daughter – Be on your way, verse 1

But the lyrics go a step further and admit there’s a possibility of meeting again in the future because life can be very unpredictable:

Time throws us around
And there is never just one future plan
Our lifetime dreams aren’t bound
And you won’t hold me back
Won’t keep ourselves awake

Daughter – Be on your way, verse 3

“Party”, a song about alcoholism, is a good example of a voice that’s somewhat unemotional, detached from reality:

You seem disappointed that your stories got lost
Down a hole in the back of my head
All the infinite speaking and the secrets you told
Well, I swallowed them all, then I crunched the ice
And I refuse to believe that there’s a problem, you see
I could stop if I want, I just don’t want to yet

Daughter – Party, verse 1

Forgetting what people tell you, not believing there’s is a problem, and thinking you can quit drinking anytime? Classic, an addict at their worse.

Or “Neptune”, one about a shell of a relationship, when there’s nothing left, just the facade. And despair:

This is the last dress rehearsal
To stand back
Morose, a human clone
So, for what is left
I’ll tag along
I’ll play the part of someone I like

Daughter – Neptune, verse 2

Many of the songs are not lyrics, they’re masterfully sculpted poems often with a dark story lurking in between the lines, “Neptune” is a fine example – a song that could easily be a dark and painful one.

There’s also “(Missed Calls)”, a poem of sorts accompanied by music used as background. It feels like it was written by a machine with all the glitches but it’s not. It’s a dream-like sequence of words that may or may not make any sense depending on how much poetry and abstract art you’ve seen.

Neptune is one of the best songs also because of how it’s built up (and not just it). By the time you reach the chorus, you’re pretty deep in a depressing story. When it kicks in, it’s not all that much surprising, what is, how it grows in strength, more voices joining, more voices getting louder. When Tonra’s voice joins (or emerges from) the choir, you know she’s singing for everyone. Goosebumps.

Daughter – Neptune (Official Lyric Video)

The verdict, you ask?

One of the few things that turned my attention away from Metallica‘s 72 Seasons is this album, Stereo Mind Game, because I can’t get enough of it.

It’s the type of music that makes you turn the volume up so you could listen to the lyrics, rewind, and listen some more. It’s beautiful poetry. It’s what brilliant music should be.

It’s extremely smart songwriting with music done by brilliant musicians. As I said at the beginning, this is an album of the week, month, and year.

Written by Vinklarek on

Petr 'Pete' Vinklárek writes mainly about music. Prior to entering the digital industry, he taught Translation Studies & British and American Cinema at a university. In his spare time, he hikes, listens to podcasts, watches films, and writes poetry. Petr studied the English Language and Literature at The University of Ostrava; his master’s thesis covered some aspects of Warren Zevon's work.

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