Elena Tonra has always had a dark talent for writing lyrics: unflinching verses that evoke, emotionally, the sensation that one is being slowly eviscerated. Though best known as the lead singer in the indie folk band Daughter, Tonra has decided to branch out on a solo project. Ex:Re (pronounced like “x-ray”) released the surprise single “Romance” on November 26th, and an eponymous album followed only four days later.
Ex:Re is a breakup record, but not in a traditional sense. In an interview with The Line of Best Fit, Tonra examined the meditative period she has spent alone since Daughter decided to take a brief hiatus. She described this project as a story in which she is the only defined character; rather than focusing explicitly on her ex-relationship, Tonra evaluates her emotions regarding both the break up and the feelings of watching everyone around her move on with their lives.
Sonically, Ex:Re’s songs undeniably carry a sound similar to that which Tonra has lent to Daughter in the past. However, this is clearly her project. The vocals are more developed and focal; the instrumentals more experimental, often more present as background complements; and the overall record rawer, barer. Most importantly, Tonra diverges from the comfortable rock niche that Daughter has settled into to experiment with piano ballads, stripped-down folk guitar, heavier electro-pop, and even a bit of post-rock.
As always, Tonra’s words are poetic in their simplicity. In “Too Sad,” the lyrics “I can’t readjust into the life before I met you / I can’t readjust, I just want to forget you,” are wailed softly over an electrifying buildup of guitar and bass. Standout track “Crushing,” repeats chorus lines “I guess attention spans are lessening / It’s a lesson in humans using machines / To show their feelings,” adding a sense of urgency and desperation to an otherwise ironically upbeat-sounding song.
Overall, Ex:Re is a beautifully crafted, emotionally rich debut. With or without the backing of Daughter, we must hope that Tonra will continue to bless the alternative music scene with her work.
Recommended If You Like: Daughter, Keaton Henson, Wilsen
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Crushing), 3 (New York), 4 (Romance), 5 (The Dazzler), 7 (Liar), 9 (5AM), 10 (My Heart)
Do Not Play: 6 (Too Sad)
Written by Jaya Chakka on 12/01/2018