By Caleb Spencer / Staff Writer
You’re alone in a dark room. The only noise you hear, apart from your slowly accelerating breathing, is your heartbeat, quickening its pace as dread and paranoia threaten to consume you.
You know what’s out there, but where is it? It’s watching you, but how could it? The walls offer no way to look in, and worse still, no way to look out. It’s closer, but how could you know? Is anything there at all, or is it just you?
While that may sound like a nightmare that no one wants to endure, the band Daughters made that grotesque feeling into what I consider to be the best album of the 2010s.
Eight years after the Rhode Island band’s self-titled third album, Daughters released “You Won’t Get What You Want,” an album that drives you insane with brooding drums and bass, psychotic guitars, and the haunting vocals and lyrics of frontman Alexis S.F. Marshall.
1. “City Song”
The opening track “City Song” attempts to beat you over the head with a steady and aggressive bass drum beat for well over a minute and a long, abrasive string of deep static. Outside of a few added snare hits, that is the only sound present in the album, before it cuts out and introduces the opening line of the entire album: “This city is an empty glass.”
With a more complex drum section and various grunts, moans, and both human and metallic shrieking filling the background, “City Song” brings a sense of uncertainty before breaking down to electronic squeals, and leading to the eventual tipping point. Growls and grimy guitar riffs fill the air as Marshall’s monotone voice describes the hypothetical city being abandoned, closing with all instruments suddenly stopping while Marshall describes a destroyed but serene landscape.
2. “Long Road, No Turns:” A dizzying circus
As far as haunted circus songs go, the second track “Long Road, No Turns” stands out in my mind as one of the best.
“I feel dizzy listening to it. I feel dizzy playing it,” said drummer Jon Syverson on Genius about the track. The repetitive, droning guitars do spin you around for the majority of the song. Marshall describes the devastation felt by climbing in life and falling to the smallest of issues. The drumbeat keeps the song moving at an uncomfortable pace, almost resembling how life can sometimes move too fast, and neither slows down for a moment.
Somehow, the track picks up intensity as Marshall tells the listener that others have worse problems in life before crashing down to the simple strumming of a cursed guitar.
3. “Satan in the Wait”
After two intense songs, Daughters finally slows down for the seven-minute track “Satan in the Wait,” which was the first single released for the album.
Told from the perspective of Satan himself, the song describes how extremist ideas can easily flow in today’s world. Painting a vivid picture over the rising, droning guitar notes and boosted bass guitar, and a simple but effective rhythm accompanying them, the lyrics do a wonderful job setting the stage for the ideas presented.
While the last two minutes are darker and more desperate, the track as a whole feels more positive and optimistic, agreeing with the concepts presented in the track.
“Satan in the Wait” gives the listener time to breathe before one of- if not the absolute- hardest and most violent song on the entire album.
4. “The Flammable Man:” A Lovecraftian beast
“The Flammable Man,” in a strange way, is a simple song. Coming in at two minutes and 10 seconds, it’s the shortest track on the entire album. With only 147 words that are mostly repeated, the lyrics aren’t the star of this track; but, its unrelenting pace is otherworldly.
Being both my top listened song of 2019 and the decade on Spotify, I’ve given this song a lot of time to try and figure out how they pulled it off.
“The Flammable Man” is the type of song that makes you appreciate how talented these people are, because of its deafening guitar riff, incredible bassline, and feverish drums. The track feels like a nightmare that never ends or a descent into madness at terminal velocity. It pauses for a few seconds, allowing Marshall to take a quick breath and start again.
Nothing makes me regret skipping their concert like this track.
Seeing it performed live would hold the same power as staring at a Lovecraftian beast, rendering the viewer mad instantly.
5. “The Lords Song:” Beauty in its screams and shrieks
Refusing to slow down, Daughters move the listener on to “The Lords Song,” a more rhythmic song than the previous track but with the feeling of paranoia present before. The lyrics present the idea of dystheism, or that God only wants to see humanity suffer. Marshall refuses to listen, but he cries anyways.
“I cry about it because I want to,” says Marshall during the chorus of the track.
The song refuses to give you anything to hold onto, as its sounds slowly shift and climb on each other before all falling at the end to give the grinding guitar a few last strums.
Marking the halfway point in the album, “The Lords Song” does a great job of summarising the themes and ideas of the album, namely emotional torment. The album isn’t easy to listen to, but it never intended to be easy or even enjoyable.
In a way, that’s the part I enjoy the most- there’s somehow beauty scattered through the screams and shrieks in each song, and it’s up to you to find where it all lies.
6. “Less Sex”
Starting the second half of the album brings the listener to “Less Sex”, featuring an intro of distorted noise and a genuinely soft drum beat. Muted guitars occasionally fade in as Marshall starts to sing, telling the listener that something is here, and it’s not right. Overall, the lyrics are about addiction taking over someone’s life, with lines such as “I gave it complete control” and “led a long way down.”
Lacking a chorus in this track, a booming drum hit followed by the same distorted noise from the beginning separates each verse. The lines paint a worsening picture for the narrator. Near the end, the distortion comes back in full force. It drowns out the voice before it all crescendos with one final drum hit, revealing how traumatic the addiction has really been.
7. “Daughter:” Personal paranoia
Described as the most personal song Marshall has written, “Daughter” is interesting to look into because there’s a lot to unpack.
Multiple lines suggest a battle between the narrator and their thoughts. The line “There’s a sure rope swinging, without a head in its jaws / It’s waiting” further supports this idea.
Feelings of guilt and paranoia fill the second verse. Each instrumental part builds upon itself to a peak before crashing and leaving only a broken rhythm behind before Marshall returns for two more verses. Screaming with pure emotion, Marshall reflects on what’s happened before retiring to a defeated vocal performance with grotesque and monstrous screams, heard quietly behind roaring instruments.
The track ends with Marshall repeating the same phrase over and over again – “knowing they die here and there” – before the track is sent off quietly to the next song.
8. “The Reason They Hate Me”
Throughout this album so far, its anger and frustration have been focused inward, towards the artist. In “The Reason They Hate Me,” that frustration is pushed out at listeners and critics.
Carried by the most normal guitar riff on the entire album, this track still feels heavy and industrial in all the best ways. You almost feel like you could have fun when listening to this song, the complete opposite of what the rest of the album offers the listener. The easy-to-follow progression of “The Reason They Hate Me” makes it the perfect gateway drug for people trying to get into harder and more abstract rock music but find the strange sounds too offputting.
9. “Ocean Song:” Go, run, go, run
Another story appears on the ninth track, “Ocean Song.” Discussing the paranoia of the main character, named Paul, the track feels relaxed relative to the other songs on the album. Still, it sounds as if the beat will crumble at any minute.
Sudden and violent guitar breaks appear during each verse, and the chorus screams of danger through fast-paced drums and guitar. Insanity slowly builds through the song before shattering each chorus, with the last verse hitting both sides of the spectrum at their peaks.
The lyrics follow Paul as he starts to loath, and even fear, his monotonous lifestyle, pairing nicely with the instrumentals. As soon as he arrives home from his job, Paul feels a wave of panic as an inner voice demands him to escape- “go, run, go, run”- everything that he currently knows. He trudges towards his home, slightly shaken from the anxiety attack he just encountered. Paul doesn’t want to keep going, but he knows he has to continue.
Finally, Paul sees his son, only to hear the same voice not from Paul but from the son, repeating the same demands as before- “go, run, go, run”- which proves to be too much. Paul rushes to the backyard and into the alleyway. Paul’s speed makes his shoes fall off, but his fear doesn’t let him stop.
In a way, Paul is free, but the last two minutes of instrumentals tell the listener that this freedom may not be without endless fear.
10. “Guest House”
Arriving at the tenth and final song on the album, “Guest House”, the band pulls no punches as everything Daughters perfected through the rest of the album hits a new peak.
Marshall’s lyrics feel like they’re on a new level entirely, and the instrumentals drag you to the end kicking and screaming, finishing off with a gorgeous moment of genuine serenity at the last seconds with a string section, congratulating the listener on somehow enduring the last 48 minutes of their lives.
The entire song feels like it’s tied together with one small string, struggling to keep the pieces together as it all races to its demise. Marshall yells through the noise in desperation as he tries his best to keep it together.
I’m unaware of any piece of music more visceral, more draining, more profoundly emotional than this. Having this on repeat to write this paragraph is an exhausting experience in itself.
Still, I can’t imagine what a live performance of this song does to a man’s body. There’s destruction, growth, and what feels like years of cathartic energy put into this song, easily making it my favorite on the entire album.
An unreal amount of power
There’s so much I haven’t said about this album, but I want to leave some surprise for anyone willing to brave the trenches this album throws you into. Daughters’ one-of-a-kind ability to draw negative energy from their instruments makes for a soul-crushing album that can only be heard to truly understand what I mean.
Of course, while writing this, I realized that some people might not want music to destroy their will to live, which is fair enough, I’ll give you that. However, I truly believe this is one of the best records of all time, and I’d be willing to fight that to the grave. There’s an unreal amount of power in these 10 songs, and I implore you to check it out as soon as you can.