Daughter has always been one of those bands to regularly produce beautiful and moving music. Tracks like “Medicine” and “Youth” always inspire an overflow of emotion within me and send me to such a calm and quiet place. They manage to create music that weaves an intricate story and bleeds honest emotion. This is a feat on its own considering how the pop landscape has become dominated by electronic sounds, whereas Daughter sticks to a subtle acoustic sound. This led to them making their mark with the release of their haunting debut album If You Leave in 2013. The album set their sound as being acoustic-based, laced with haunting melodies and beautiful songwriting. What happens when this sound is combined with a 10-piece classical ensemble? You get the beauty that is Live @ Air.
Live @ Air was recorded at the Air Studio in London with composer Joe Duddell and a 10-piece classical ensemble. My expectation when I heard about this EP was that it was going to be amazing, and upon hearing it, it blew me away. It takes five tracks from their debut album and applies a classical arrangement to them. The tracks were already these beautiful, melodic songs but the Live @Air versions just surpass them. Joe Duddell expertly crafted classical arrangements that highlight the emotion and melody of each particular track. The fact that these songs were performed and recorded live adds rawness to the sound of the EP. Elena Tonra’s vocals are executed with such rawness that one can feel the emotion dripping from the tracks.
A shining example of the brilliance of this EP is the track “Youth”, which is by far my favourite Daughter song. It originally is an emotional and melodic track which hits your aural senses in all the right places, but with a classic arrangement applied, it escalates from that to be an absolutely beautiful and soaring track. Tonra’s vocals bleed emotion on every lyric but is ever-so present on the chorus of “Well if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones.” The song in its entirety is about not taking things for granted and how this relates to relationships.
“Still” screams of raw and untamed emotion as the classical ensemble fuels Tonra’s heart-wrenching rendition of the song. Igor Haefeli’s gentle strumming of the guitar provides a basis for the arrangement to morph itself around. The rawness of Tonra’s vocals adds a weighty sense of emotion to the track as her voice soars above the instrumentals. Lyrics like “Still without touching/Still without breathing” just reflect the band’s brilliant songwriting and, in a way, almost morbid style of lyrics.
The EP in its entirety is remarkable. The nearly eight-minute long “Shallow” leads you down, if it was the musical equivalent of a path, a path lined by flowers in various colours and towered above by tall weeping willow trees. The song calms you and transports you to this magical place where all your worries melt away. “Tomorrow” and “Amsterdam” continue the theme of intense beauty with the classical arrangements soaring in conjunction with Tonra’s vocals.
Daughter proved their capacity for beautiful songs in If You Live. Live @ Air reinforces an already known fact: that Daughter is remarkably beautiful. They creep into your heart and then stay there while performing songs that you can listen to repeatedly and never get bored or fed up with. This trio understands what makes humans tick and reflect this understanding in their music. Beautiful may be a mild understatement.