Phasers Set To Stun (Dear Rouge, PHASES review)

I will totally agree that there is an ebb and flow to life. We all experience highs and lows, and whatever exists in-between, but on the surface, it’s never quite so obvious that the flow is much more internal then could ever be demonstrated. To put it another way, transitions happen constantly within our thought processes.


Dear Rouge – PHASES

released March 9, 2018
******** 8/10

Dear Rouge is an award-winning Canadian alternative and dance rock duo, comprised of husband and wife, Drew and Danielle McTaggart. They’ve been active since 2012, and initially met while touring under different bands. It wasn’t until after they had been married that they began the Dear Rouge brand. In case you were wondering (and I very much was!), the band name is a play on words – Danielle’s home town is Red Deer, Alberta.

PHASES is their sophomore album, released just three years after the critically successful Black to Gold. Returning this time with a more refined sound, and influenced by the places it was recorded at (Toronto, Montreal, Nashville, Vancouver and New York), the McTaggarts set out to produce an album which doesn’t actually innovate much on what came before, but instead feels more intentional with it’s themes and tonal choices.

It’s all very cheery and hopeful, except for when it’s not, and even when Dear Rouge has committed one way or the other, the other side comes through to create a feeling of warmth. This is created to great effect within the first two tracks. Wicked Thing is very much a bright song with a hopeful resonance, and yet, there is a tone underneath that loving affection can easily turn into obsession. And then that theme of obsession is more prominently stated on Live Through The Night, but that song is overtly dark and mysterious. The dance between darkness and pop continues on Stolen Days, an aching callback to youth, not knowing any better, growing up and maturing, and is very much a tribute to Drew’s late cousin.

The singles Boys & Blondes, and Modern Shakedown make up the core of the album’s hype machine, and deservedly so. They are both essential dance-rock with catchy lyrics, heavy on the synth and bass and explosive chorus’. Boys & Blondes has feminist themes and Modern Shakedown is super dark.

It’s a living breathing album, which was desrcribed by it’s creators as full of grit and gloss, and I think that’s a pretty apt description.

Pros: Each song is really and truly exciting to listen to and gives us an opportunity to pick up a torch and fight for the cause of indie pop-rock. If you really want to get a taste for this album listen to Live Through The Night, Little By Little, and The Clearing. Darker nights of pop there have been not.

Cons: Though the tone and quality of production is consistent throughout, there is very little variation from song to song, which makes it difficult to know where you are at any given point, and having to give pause takes you out of the mood.

Runtime: 37 minutes

Points of Interest: Dear Rouge spent the better part of 2016 and 2017 touring while they were writing and recording their follow-up album. Tawgs Salter, Sterling Fox, and Hot Hot Heat frontman, Steve Bays, all helped produce the record.

If you really want to compare it to other acts of today, PHASES can easily knock down the doors of other dance-rock and dance-punk progenitors. I’m looking at you The Killers, DFA, and LCD Soundsystem. Heck, even synth-pop and indie darlings like Metric, Tove Lo, and La Roux should be concerned. Dear Rouge are trendsetters and clearly cutting up the Spotify charts.

theories Summarized

Should you listen to this album? Yeah, I think it’s worth a listen or five. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, but Canadian music content always feels a little bit more authentic and inventive with it’s presentation. And tastemakers are always so fashionable to boot. My theory, of course.

And speaking of tastemakers, I’ve got this really cool review lined up with Brendon Greene on the classic hip hop album from the now retired Beastie Boys. That’s right! Licensed To Ill is going to get some love this week, whether you’re hearing it for the first time, or it’s been on your brain since the 1980s, this is seriously fun music, and influential too.

I greatly appreciate that you took the time to read this review, and I hope it helps you to decide to listen to it. And if you’ve already heard it before, I trust my thoughts affirmed how you felt, one way or another! And what did you think of Brendon and my Sound Culture video review? Licensed to Ill is an instrumental hip hop record, and well worth a listen! And remember, if you liked what you saw, and/ior enjoyed what you read, please click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel and my mailing list! I’ll be back tomorrow with a film review on The Disaster Artist. There’ll be more theories!


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