"Grit and gloss." It's three simple words, but it's a mantra of sorts for Drew and Danielle McTaggart on Dear Rouge's latest record, Phases. It features plenty of synth gloss, but there's urgency behind these tracks; the McTaggarts aren't afraid to get gritty to give their songs the extra push they might need.
Appropriately, "Motion" struts on top of a gritty funk backdrop, while "Boys & Blondes" pounds along on top of a dance-y synth/bass pattern, evoking the raw dance-punk energy of Yeah Yeah Yeahs circa 2009. Even "Chains," which starts out with a soft, restrained vocal turn from Danielle McTaggart, erupts into a driving wall of synths less than a minute in.
Above everything, Phases feels alive. The band earned a 2016 Juno Award for breakthrough group of the year, but the McTaggarts had to face the death of a cousin of Drew's as they were preparing for this record. The record bristles with this exploration of intense emotion, resulting in an invigorating journey.
Phases catches them in the middle of these emotional extremes — hopeful for the future, yet mindful of the present. The record isn't content to stay one place for too long, finding catharsis in its constant movement forward. "Maybe something good is coming," Danielle sings on "Little By Little." Maybe something is, but they know for sure they're not going to find out if they just stay where they are.
Pre-order Phases on vinyl via Umusic. (Universal)