Daughter – Stereo Mind Games: Review

It’s been seven years since the last time Indie Folk/Rock UK trio Daughter released an album, and that absence has been felt; exponentially so, as I went through listening to Stereo Mind Game. They have returned, bringing visceral orchestrations and vocal performances centered on atmospheric tendencies without diluting the lyrical depth driving its poignancy. Thematically focused on directional emotions deriving from moments you reflect on loved ones you miss or separation of self when balancing who you are, for example, taking you on a smooth and respective retrospective journey of enriching sounds. In some ways, the album covers niche grounds where it blends aspects of alternative rock, shoegaze, and dream pop into a lyrically heavy concoction while leaving out catchy pop conventions so you’re engaged through other avenues. It delivers these profound moments where you can stop but keep it playing on repeat as you get entrenched within the confines of its fantastic production and relatable songwriting that will have you returning again and again through that connectivity.

Softening the listener with a melancholy instrumental as the intro, Stereo Mind Game quickly grabs your ears and pits you against a concurrent run of deep songs where its themes come to life like popping out of a book. We’re hearing Elena Torna, lead singer of Daughter, sing about these moments where you feel sullen, unknowing how the world shifts around you as time passes, and the feeling of displacement while motionless on “Dandelion.” We hear her sing about contrasting emotions that come with loneliness, like the peaceful feeling on “Be On Your Way” or the depressive longing that comes from not seeing certain loved ones on a regular on “Isolation.” It continues to build and build with the production elevating the senses further. Reflections of these themes are resonant through differentiating directions and unique constructions where originality becomes a dominant positive. It allows you to dig deep and listen carefully, getting through these auspicious themes that carry semblance from track to track. It extends beyond this, as there are roots within them that build character depth and growth.

Those positives are also definitively true within the production, as Daughter plays around with varying instrumental connections, weaving new sounds on top of its rock/pop core. Sometimes other musicians incorporate particular notes of influence that are more direct and less fun references, like dream pop notes on “Party” or alternative pop on the final track, “Wish I Could Cross The Sea.” These tracks have more of a finite construct as they weave layers to boast Elena Torna’s emotional depth in her vocals fluidly. The production reacts as this component, which flows with enough balance to keep the performances moving steadily. The synthesizers are a constant that keeps it in tow, getting used sometimes to subvert thoughts of tracks treading toward more remedying acoustics. On “Neptune,” its shift from the acoustic strings to a more broken down direction with simple drum patterns and vibrant synth notes – with “Future Lover,” the synths guide the bridge between more enigmatic drum patterns from the drum machine and some subtle guitars playing in the back.

Stereo Mind Game doesn’t overly play with genres but instead with soundscapes that embolden its inner core to keep it molded well. Sometimes they play with sounds that juxtapose perspective, especially with a given context of the song, like with “Party,” which sees Elena Torna sing about inner growth as she seeks to stay sober from alcohol, using the surroundings of a party to paint astute visuals. Unlike what one thinks of when it comes to parties, the production and performance are more somber in contrast to the colorful and loud, like Torna is leaning against the wall in the living room, alone and reflecting on habits she’s bettering herself from. At its definitive core, the music drives behind the wheel of more dream pop and shoegaze elements beneath centralized indie rock percussion; however, there are varying moments where it takes a dip into deep waters and comes out with something distinctively grand. Within the second half of “Dandelion,” it plays with more pedals, shifting from the apropos, like with “Junkmail,” it blends juxtaposing drum beats from Remi Aguilella, drummer of the band, and the drum machine. 

Daughter has constructed a finely tuned album within a great composite of writing and production where each track gets to breathe and feel entwined within the bigger picture, even when the sonic motifs aren’t as open and eloquently subtle. It has this balance where, as long as the atmospheric sensibilities never deter in zones where it’s most effective. It’s significant how the tracks seamlessly transition between each other, like when you get a more typical but exuberant indie rock production in “Swim Back,” leading into a more tempered and contrasting production in “Junkmail.” Unfortunately, there are little moments where I didn’t find myself vibing, loving so much of this album that it’s easy to get lost in some weak moments. For example, “To Rage” comes off as calming and safe, doing little with the synths and feeling a little hollow compared to what has gotten heard leading to it. As you keep this on replay, it camouflages within the vibe that its placement doesn’t feel like it overcooks what Daughter wants to deliver.

Stereo Mind Game is fantastic, for lack of a better term, but where it triumphs is in the synergy and synchronization between vocals and production. It’s like this vast, relaxed, and loudly intimate moment where the music reflects what you’d hear at venues that embolden that bar basement vibe, where one expects nothing but introspective lyrics. It may be a little niche for some, but the music speaks wonders as it pushes beyond their style and expand to new horizons, especially as it sometimes juxtaposes sounds beautifully. Highly recommend the album, even if this is your first time hearing about them, because I can hopefully guarantee this is one great album.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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