Elena Tonra from Daughter released a solo album called Ex:Re, and it is devastatingly beautiful
Elena Tonra, the lead vocalist / lyricist / guitarist of the band Daughter, recently released a debut solo album and it is just the perfect companion on those cold winter days!
This time, she is going under the pseudonym Ex:Re (pronounced ex ray). It has several meanings like “Regarding Ex”, or “X-Ray”, which is looking into something and seeing what’s really there. Understanding it better with time, as Tonra says. The “Re” is also the beginning of an email reply, a way of communication between people who are far away from each other. She refers to a detachment, the one while talking about someone who you were once very attached to. You might have guessed it by now, this is a break-up record.
How writing Ex:Re was therapeutic for Elena Tonra
For many years, Elena Tonra used writing as a way to deal emotionally with life. She mentioned that if she hadn’t made this album, she would still have a lot of false hopes. This record was a way for her to process the idea that this was actually the end, even if you can’t set a date for when you’re going to be over something.
Although the record is written for someone, a lot of the time it’s about the space without that person in it. The album is an account of the time after the relationship had ended, the space that he left and the experiences I had trying to fill that space again, most often failing to.
It took her almost a year to write this deeply personal album, but recorded it in only a few months. She forced herself to go to the studio every day, because she knew she couldn’t live with these songs inside her head for long.
A lot of the songs are long rambling notes to myself. Like writing letters you don’t actually send. A pile of paper I never quite got the courage to put in an envelope. I was trying to find a way to say things I wanted to say, but couldn’t anymore. Things I was too proud to admit to thinking or feeling.
Romance, a strong first single
As you might have noticed in the video of “Romance”, Elena Tonra likes to picture the songs of her record as movie scenes. Each one set in a different place. The drums and percussion start by setting the scenery. The cello recreates how it felt to have been there, and finally the lyrics are telling the story. Tonra explains that “Romance” describes a night where intimacy felt kind of cold.
With every stab wound and exhale, I promised myself
That I would never lose my youthful fears of grown up men
I’m scarred with cruel intentions
I thought of another the whole time
Who would have never stared me like that
See, he saw me as a human
This one thinks I’m a slaughterhouse
Other recommended tracks
The record starts with a minimalistic guitar in the melancholic track “Where The Time Went”. On the first listen, this song might appear rather simple. However it is a great example that illustrates how sometimes less is more.
We also appreciated “Too Sad”, in the middle of the album. In this track, sorrowful piano notes build up to dark guitar riffs, as Tonra sings about how powerless she felt: “I see our fingerprints on household things, I’m too sad to touch. I feel your skin on human beings, I’m too sad to fuck.”
Another song we loved was “5AM”, with its heartbreaking lyrics.
And what about that man that hurt you?
Did he just go home and take off his shoes?
Did he lie quite calmly against his lover?
Did he even once think about the pain he’d caused to another?
In general, the record contains a lot of looping melodies. Usually a piano or a guitar line that keeps cycling around.
It struck me as symbolic, that my life seemed to be stuck on a loop at that time, not moving on or forward.
Ex:Re is without a doubt, the most authentic record we’ve heard this year. When talking about it, Elena Tonra says that it was made out of devastation, and that she’s really happy with it. Well, so are we!
Cover picture: Helen Boast