Doing the Right Thing: Daughter’s ode to Sadness

It’s dangerous to go alone, take this. No, seriously you will need a kitten for this one.

This week we’ve been digging around in old playlists to try to discover some new favorite songs. We believe we’ve done that with Daughter’s simply devastating ode to sadness: Doing the Right Thing.

The official video is not available for embedding so please go and watch this first. It may take you a few tries, it took us a few days to work up the courage to watch the entire thing. You will likely hate us for having done this to you, and we apologize for that, however there are powerful lessons here.

As Aunty helped us understand on our last trip, we choose songs for our playlist to help us return as the people we want to be. We’re choosing the experience on purpose. So the songs on the playlist are there to entertain us, teach us, challenge us, or just help us melt away.

To be 100% clear this song is not appropriate for our playlist, that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of our favorite songs. Sometimes we need to feel sad, sometimes we need to process things or just re-experience the depths of sadness to help us reset our normal life. Remembering the truths in this song can help us to re-discover the need to treasure and value each moment that we have.

Step aside Tori Amos, Putting the Damage on has served us all well for over 20 years. Doing the Right Thing is our new favorite sad song.

Who is Daughter?
Elena performing with Daughter at KEXP. Their genre is called “shoe gaze” as the artists are usually looking down.

Daughter is a trio of musicians from England who have produced 3 full studio albums, and are currently taking a hiatus. The lead vocalist and writer, Elena Tonra, has since released a solo album. We discovered this song on an Apple Music playlist titled “Trippy Psychedelic Music” published by Indiemono.

Upon our first listen of the song Doing the Right Thing we became obsessed with the band. They seem to be able to tap into that emotional network we all exist in and guide their listeners along the way. Further this is a song that made us cry, and that is a quite rare for us.

From interviews and the wikipedia pages we learn that Elena is the song’s writer. These are her stories, and they are deeply personal but not obscure. If you’ve surived the video we linked earlier you likely already understand the general themes. Still, as we usually do on this site, let’s draw those themes out a bit and see how they relate back to psychedelic philosophy.

When I began writing “Doing The Right Thing” it wasn’t about my grandmother or my mother, then it suddenly took a turn ……about how my mum is affected by my grandmother and just, it’s a really strange sadness that I’ve been keeping at bay for a while, not talking about, and not even fully admitting to myself that it’s making me sad, then it just suddenly poured out of me.

Elena Tonra, The Line of Best Fit 2015.

We will reference the interview this quote is from a few times in this post. Maybe we can even help Elena find some ways to help come to terms with the truth of our existence.

The song itself

Then I’ll lose my children

Then I’ll lose my love

Then I’ll sit in silence

Let the picture soak

Out of televisions

Float across the room

Whisper into one ear

Out the other one

Lyrics excerpt, Doing the Right Thing by Daughter

If you are still reading this review then you likely became obsessed with the song after hearing it, just as we did. Let’s try to understand why that happened by talking about the structure and themes of this work.

The song does not follow a conventional structure, while it has verses and a repeating chorus — the tense of the words changes as the song progresses. At first this song is about fears of the future, and then those fears are made real, you live in them for a while. This is a key aspect of what makes the song so powerful, and hit so hard.

Imagery like this is confusing at first in the video, why is this young couple here…

The video reinforces this theme of time as the story is slowly revealed through the imagery of the man’s journey and the lyrics of the song. The man walks past a young couple still in the honeymoon of their life, seemingly completely unaware of the horrors that time can bring to an unprepared ego.

But Elena is not unaware of these horrors. In the interview she explains that the song is about her own mother, and grandmother. There are few specifics, but the implications are clear. Elena has dealt with the pain of watching a loved one lose themselves yet retain their physical body. She understands that this may happen to her. The songs progression through time reflects her own expectations and fears.

Somewhere in the back of our minds we are all afraid of this, slowly wasting away while the world goes on around us. The sudden loss of a loved one is always traumatic, but having to watch that loss occur over a long period of time is a different kind of sadness. You must allow your mind to explore and accept that fear if you really want to understand this work.

The way the word “Reproduction” slowly floats out of her betrays both a deep understanding of the generational cycles she is facing, and also a bitter resentment of… something…

The song itself is a complex tapestry woven from thin strands of sound bought in and out of focus. Over this, Elena’s haunting telling of her own story bites into the music. When she speaks, the audio cuts out. This effect is especially powerful in the ending chorus. We are far too terrified to listen to this in a psychedelic state. We suspect the impact would be immediate and profound. If you need to cry, this will do it for you.


The title Doing the Right Thing, refers to a lyric that occurs near the end of the 2nd verse. At this point she is beginning to understand that her loved one is not coming back from this disease. The body is there, but the self is gone, or changed beyond recognition. In the video this is expressed as the grandmother being unaware of the people around her. She can only focus on the images on a television.

This is the hardest truth we all have to face. We’re here now, enjoy it god damn it.

She is aware that this has happened, but her caretaker, won’t tell the truth. Elena is telling that person that they are doing the right thing by hiding the pain of this decay from those too young to fully understand it. Whether that is actually true or not is left for us the figure out.

The red dress

So what about the red dress? Maybe this point is obvious to everyone but we’d like to talk about it anyway. The red dress is where the old man has stored the person he once loved. She is gone now, just soaking images from a television, unable to even recognize him. To escape that pain he’s put the memories of who she was into the dress.

By taking the dress out that day, having it cleaned and sitting in the park to enjoy a day together — the old man is reliving a part of his past that is now gone. Maybe this is part of what Aunty means when she asserts that there is life after death. The existence never really ends, the moment is always there.

“‘Cause she’s already gone” — pay attention to the television in the background. Like the song’s complex layers of audio harmony, the video is also layered with visual harmonies.

We hope we’ve expressed our adoration for this artist, and this amazing song. We cannot thank her enough for sharing this story in this way with the world. While it is difficult to face the reality of our ultimate decay, it’s only by exploring those themes that we can fully appreciate the time we have.

So thank you.





2 responses to “Doing the Right Thing: Daughter’s ode to Sadness”

  1. […] to her life during the film: her husband asking for a divorce, and her relationship with her daughter. Let’s examine the divorce scenario as it is a bit simpler and easier to deal with. […]

  2. […] life, or at least better cope with the one you have; This lesson is different, this lesson is existential. When Alan spoke on this topic, which he did often, it wasn’t with his typical jovial style […]

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