The first time I listened to Daughters’ “You Won’t Get What You Want” was on a gloomy, frigid day in an unknown state, alone in a dark hotel room. It was the first and only time I’ve ever felt genuinely frightened after listening to an album. It left me disconnected and feeling outside of myself. It took half a year before this numbing effect subsided and I could fully appreciate the record. Not only is it now my favorite album of 2018, I feel comfortable labeling it one of the best records of the decade. It’s not without its flaws, but they are inconsequential compared with everything it does extraordinarily well.
The opening track, “City Song,” begins with a pulsing drone, clipped drums and Alexis Marshall’s soulless vocal delivery, with short moans and screams in the background. After a short digital interlude, the track finally builds up to its noisy, overwhelming conclusion that feels like being hit in the temple with a steel pipe.
“Long Road, No Turns” is hideous. It’s unfamiliar, droning guitars decline in half steps during the verses, which is such an effective and criminally underused musical maneuver. Marshall’s narrator has snapped, shouting such cynical lines as “When you come undone/ When you come apart/ Remember that the road is long/ Remember that the road is dark/ Don’t waste your time learning the words to somebody else’s song.”
“Satan in the Wait” is easily the album’s highlight. It’s haunting and apocalyptic but also gorgeous, in a sinister way. The punchy drums and grimy bass are opposed by an absolutely beautiful guitar line during the choruses. Where the track shines brightest are with Marshall’s lyrics, which are the best of the year. From the gritty “That bastard had a head like a matchstick/ Face like he was sucking concrete through a straw/ ‘Some faces not even a mother can love.’/ Says the spit and spatter of broken glass from above,” to the mantric chanting of “This world is opening up” and finally the absolutely defeated “Today’s gonna feel like tomorrow, some day/ Tomorrow’s gonna feel like yesterday,” this song shows an impressive level of lyrical prowess and versatility.
The unrelenting “The Flammable Man” and “The Lord Song” pass by at a blistering speed, leading into “Less Sex,” the only moment of rest the album allows. The narrator here is at his most lucid, acknowledging his self destructive behavior with heartbreaking lines like “I gave it complete control/ Led a long way down.” Its grandiose outro is stunning, and a much needed human moment, away from the absolute despair that preceded and follows.
“Daughter” is the album’s only lull, not really serving up anything that special compared to the rest of the album. “The Reason They Hate Me” is straightforward and probably the album’s most accessible song, despite its constant barrage of antagonistic lyrics and grating noises.
“Ocean Song” tells the story of Paul, who upon returning home, is hit with an overwhelming sense of dread, causing him to run until his feet blister and his legs buckle under him, searching for some unknown comfort. The track crescendos to an overbearing, and numbing outro, with Marshall repeating the line “To know, to see for himself/ If there is an ocean beyond the waves.” So much is packed into that one line and its passionate delivery. It captures a feeling of defeat, hopelessness, the churning of your stomach, the stinging blindness of sobbing, but also the need to drag yourself forward. It’s masterful, and would’ve served as an excellent ending to the record, even though the frightening “Guest House” greatly succeeds.
“You Won’t Get What You Want” is an album that makes me want to crumble to my knees and scream. It gnaws at some difficult to grasp emotions music rarely touches on. It will strike a raw nerve in you, and whether or not you are willing and ready to acknowledge it is what’s truly unsettling. It feels antagonistic, but in reality, anything you might feel listening to it comes from you. If you aren’t willing to open yourself up to and embrace this record, it wants nothing to do with you.
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