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Ex:Re - Ex:Re (Album Review)

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 Written by Helen Payne

Ex:Re is the sorrowful, touching new project from Elena Tonra, the lead singer of acclaimed indie-folk band Daughter, and their self-titled debut should perhaps come with a warning: the chances of having a good cry with this album are extremely high.

Primarily a break-up album re: her ex, it isn’t about man-bashing. It’s not, for the most part, about how he wronged or hurt her. It’s about the aching, empty space left by his absence. ‘Ex:Re’ unfolds as 10 heavy hitting vignettes depicting Tonra’s existence without her former partner which, coincidentally, involve a lot of heavy drinking in depressing hotel rooms. She misses him, and she hates it. Loneliness pervades. Tissues at the ready.

‘Ex:Re’ (pronounced ‘X-Ray’), is a device for peering beneath the surface into the singer’s inner workings. Helped by 4AD’s in-house producer Fabian Prynn, Tonra’s mournful creativity is transformed into a soundscape slightly more desolate and sparse than Daughter’s wider-ranging ‘Not To Disappear’. Fans of the band’s looser, more atmospheric early work will immediately get on board.

Where The Time Went cuts to the core from the get go with a heartbreaking guitar melody. Tonra’s familiar vocals have the lightest reverb effect, mimicking a half whisper as she reflects on time gone by. A subtle kick drum fades in, and a delicate cello is added to the mix for a gorgeously sad opener.

Tonra doesn’t mince her words. Lyrically, ‘Ex:Re’ is an outlet for releasing feelings in order to move forward. On the shuffling, percussive New York, she describes the way her former partner used the same lines with previous lovers. “Plagiarised his love letters from some time before,” she sings. He’s “conscious of the world, he recycles his words”. The rhythm of these lines is so deliciously moreish, and the enjambement thrives again on Crushing’s chorus: “Attention span is a lesson in humans using machines to show their feelings.”

Delving further into her memories, the listener is invited to join in with self-destructive speculations during a wallowing game of over-analysis on 5am: “Did he just go home and take off his shoes? Did he lie quite calmly against his lover?” Although tough to face, she reasons on the striking lead single Romance that in the grand scheme of things “he’s probably called a nice man or an ordinary kind of man.”

Despite emotional tracks named Too Sad, I Can’t Keep You and My Heart, Tonra is not one for a pity party. These scenes are meant more as a series of letters never sent, an expression of feelings with no specific recipient—perhaps an email draft with the subject line “Re: Ex”. Ultimately, there’s the positive spin of the Latin translation of “ex re” as “proceeding”. To begin, make a start, and get going towards the future. The tissue box is empty, and you’ve realised there is, after all, light at the end of the tunnel.

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