This uplifting Canadian husband-wife synth-rock duo suddenly has me all wrapped up in a mad obsession. Here are some random thoughts that pop into my obsessed brain while listening to this album…
1. “You make me feel like I am young again”: I am not old. Let me first establish that. Forty-one is not old. But, in general, Dear Rouge reminds me of this Cure lyric. This album makes me want to dance like a 19-year-old. Notice I didn’t say, “like I was 19.” When I was 19 I danced the way I dance now: rarely, pathetically and inhibitedly.
2. Nightswimming: No, not the beautiful R.E.M. song. The actual act. Specifically, the slow jam, “October Second.” It makes me feel like I’m swimming in still waters on a warm summer night, accompanied only by the stars above reflecting perfectly on the water.
3. HAIM: The title track, “Black to Gold,” brings to mind the awesome sister act’s more electronic sounds. I’m actually having trouble putting my finger on exactly what it is. I think part of it is the drums. The little drums-only fills that often lead into new sections of HAIM songs. HAIM’s “Forever” would be the clearest example. But there’s something else – if anyone else sees it, please let me know because it’s driving me insane. Is it when Danielle Haim sings in her lower register, without the staccato inflections she’s known for? There’s also the sort of single-note, muted-string guitar sound.
4. The Duke Spirit: Singer Danielle McTaggart has a few different voices in different ranges, which she uses to mesmerizing effect. She can sound a little like California girl Danielle Haim on “Black to Gold,” then like a tough British rock chick (see The Duke Spirit’s Leila Moss), sultrily slinking her way through the lyrics on “I Heard I Had.” Like a lot of non-British singers, she does coat her vocals with a thin layer of Brit here and there. To the point where I actually wondered if she was British, but upon checking a few interviews on YouTube, she just sounds like a girl from Red Deer, Alberta.
5. Metric: “Best Look Lately” might be my favourite song on the album. It’s one of the few songs that’s a little more guitar-centric, while still maintaining the synth in the background. Plus, the big, catchy chorus. It all comes together in a bit of a Metric vibe. Then there’s “Nostalgia,” which feels more like Metric’s synth-heavier sounds in the verse.
6. The 80s: Speaking of nostalgia, there’s no denying Dear Rouge’s bright, shiny synth-heavy 80s influence. You can just see the neon bracelets and jelly shoes in their music. But it’s all wrapped in a very contemporary context.
7. Weaving: Weaving? I haven’t weaved since elementary school. But I have played in bands. No, we didn’t sit around and weave in between songs. But sometimes there’s this amazing connection you feel when two guitars or a guitar and bass play different patterns that weave in and around each other. And they have this amazing interplay between bass and guitar in the verse of “You are a Ghost.”
8. Wah: Yeah, sort of like a guitar’s wah-wah pedal or muted trumpet. There’s this subtle “wah” synth inflection that echoes Danielle’s “w” sound in “what you do” about 31 seconds into “October Second.” It happens just once, almost like it was a happy accident. But I love it.
9. Sunshine: Most of this album just reminds me of sunshine. It just feels so happy. “There’s a bright light in your eyes. There’s colour in your life. You got the best look lately.” Why thank you, Dear Rouge. (I know, most of “Best Look Lately” is criticizing consumerism and a lack of individuality, but that line in the chorus is totally positive: everyone’s got something inside them that makes them unique, so drop the artifice and let it shine.)
10. They’re not Bon Jovi: No, as far as 80s influences on this band go, Bon Jovi is not one of them. The 13-year-old version of me would view that as a critical flaw in Dear Rouge’s sound. Current me feels differently. My point is: while 80s rock HAD to have a guitar solo, music today does not. And before I started searching around for Dear Rouge stuff on YouTube, I never imagined guitar solos belonged in their songs. But check out this live version of “I Heard I Had” and tell me they shouldn’t have included this wicked guitar solo on the album version: