Dear Rouge Lift their 'Spirit' with Care and Community

BY Alan RantaPublished Apr 12, 2022

With its fickle followers and algorithmic influence, Drew and Danielle McTaggart are not seriously tempted by the trappings of fame. Yet, ever since the husband-and-wife duo began performing together as Dear Rouge, they have known their fair share of it. The indie pop power couple received instant acclaim, with the 2015 SOCAN Songwriting Prize and 2016 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year among their accolades. 
Spirit, their first full-length for Pheromone Recordings, follows a pair of major label albums, 2015's Black to Gold and 2018's Phases. After Phases, the pair holed up in a cottage near a lake and attempted to go back to their roots, trying to recapture the feeling of when they first started collaborating. Working extensively with producer/engineer Thomas D'Arcy (July Talk, Yukon Blonde), they focused on sincere sounds — using organic instrumentation, physical synths rather than plug-ins, and leaving elements of their demos like acoustic guitar and piano intact in the finished pieces.
Raw sound makes all the difference in "Small Talk." Produced by Herag Sanballian, it starts off with acoustic guitar and a whistled melody. Blended in with fiery guitar, tasteful pads, a funky bassline and pristine vocal harmonies, the song's lyrics are relatable for anyone who finds it difficult to make easy conversation, and wishes they were home making real connections rather than out in public trying to fake it.
"Way Down" with Steve Bays (Mounties, Hot Hot Heat) and drummer Flavio Cirillo is relevant to anyone experiencing post-pandemic mental health issues. With a somber instrumental featuring strummed acoustic guitar, crisp drums and a little glockenspiel, Danielle emotes, "We need a little help sometimes / No space for ego." Meanwhile, "Fake Fame," a scathing indictment of click-chasing culture, ironically became their second single to top the Canadian Alternative Rock Charts. Before recording it, Danielle liberated her phone of all social media apps.

Collaborating with singer-songwriter Jordan Klassen, "Meet Me at the Rio" rocks a punky power pop vibe somewhere between Metric and Blondie, capturing the quirky joy of the Rio Theatre. Built in 1938, the beloved Art Deco-style East Vancouver movie house and live entertainment venue is, according to the lyrics, home to a fantastic bathroom meeting spot.
"Facedown" is a sizzling electropop banger in the mold of St. Vincent's more energetic numbers. Its message is one for the world, with the chorus containing, "Left to Right, Left to Right / Come on open your mind," and the more telling verse line, "Only way it's gonna change / Gotta see we're all the same." Everything sucks, but we can only get through it together.

Shot by photographer/videographer Lindsey Blane, the album's captivating cover image shows Danielle rising from a body of water. It lends an air of empowerment and spiritual fulfillment to an album that delivers both. Undoubtedly, Dear Rouge sound grounded and renewed on Spirit — and seem destined for greater success.

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