Daughter — Bowery Ballroom — April 30, 2013


Better Than: The last asshole who broke your heart.

Elena Tonra stood sheepishly, having just returned to the stage of the Bowery Ballroom with the rest of her trio–the English indie folk band Daughter–for an encore. The previous hour was filled with her emotionally poignant and aggressive music, built upon a droning, bass-heavy foundation. Suddenly, in the waiting silence of the sold-out venue (a crowd that featured both Katy Perry and Robert Pattinson), a concertgoer shouted: “Play ‘Get Lucky’!” The previous day, the band had released a cover of Daft Punk’s latest single, “Get Lucky” (which has — by the way — already been officially dubbed the “Song of #Summer2013). Tonra smiled, ducked her head, looked up, and smiled again. And then again. And again.

“It’s not ‘Get Lucky,’ just to stop that expectation,” she said through a lovely chuckle. “This is much more depressing.” The trio then launched into a medley of indie rock, featuring somber covers of Bon Iver’s “Perth” and Hot Chip’s “Ready For The Floor.”

This was the theme of the night: Smiles into sadness into smiles. Daughter, who play another sold-out evening at the Bowery tonight in celebration of their debut record If You Leave‘s release yesterday, specialize in Music With Feelings. Emerging out of a solo project from Tonra, they trickled out singles and EPs over the past couple years, and now finally land with a full-length. The record is, no surprise, emotionally candid. Tonra’s delightfully aggressive alto belts out open-wound statements like “I’m sorry if I smothered you/ I sometimes wish I stayed inside my mother” or “most of our feelings, they are dead and gone.” It’s something you should probably be careful about listening to on a rainy day.

Sometimes, there are moments when Daughter’s music feels overwrought and much too earnest. But you have to hand it to them for being unafraid to swing for the emotional fence. At times they shine, with gems of lines like “your shoes will be gone” from “Tomorrow.” They occasionally strike out too, with cringe-worthy openness: “So we lay in the dark/ Cause we’ve got nothing to say / Just the beating of hearts/ Like two drums in the grey.”

Still, its fearlessness is admirable, regardless of whether or not it works. (And to the Daughter’s credit, most of the time it does.) Tonra was visibly nervous between songs, shifting her weight back and forth throughout the night. But once she sang, her confidence brimmed, her voice filled with the same fiery emotion that supports her songwriting.

About a third of the way through the show, she shared a secret. “We’re all friends now,” she joked, aware that her lyrics probably are made up of stuff you’d only tell your closest pals. She said, on the flight to the States, she blew an ear drum, and so she’d filled herself up on painkillers. “I’m operating many beats slower than the rest of you. But I feel great!” The crowd laughed, and Tonra grinned again. The white lights of the Bowery draped over her black hair and black outfit. She charmingly wobbled, “Okay. This is ‘Youth.'”

Youth, indeed.

Critical Bias: I’m what you’d call a Sensitive Guy.

Random Notebook Dump: It’s truly impressive that someone can actually make a Bon Iver song sound more depressing.

Overheard: Lots of SHHHs.

In the Shallows

Medley of Perth (Bon Iver Cover) and Ready For The Floor (Hot Chip Cover)