reviewed by Chris Matei
(full disclosure: The reviewer has worked previously with members of Douse recording unrelated projects)
Last week’s Royal Canoe show at the Imperial in Vancouver, BC was highly anticipated, not only for fans of the Winnipeg art-rockers, but for the three-person crew behind Douse. The New Westminster natives were celebrating the imminent release of The Light In You Has Left, a project that sees them moving from less mature alt-folk projects to a fully fledged and individual sound that combines driving New Wave, dark experimental pop and poetic indie maximalism.
Working with Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, Yukon Blonde) has allowed the band to fully unfurl their sails on this record, and the band does their best work when they perform feats of songwriting courage that take them beyond comfortable indie territory, into dissonance, exhilaration and even anger.
Guitarist Patrick Farrugia works in sequence-stuttering, vaguely Local-Natives-esque clean arpeggios on tracks like “Speak to Carry Us,” “Worsening” and “Unrest,” but always seems to choose the right moment to whip into whirling effects-drenched passages or wide-open chords that really make the listener sit up and reach to crank the volume, backed by the steadily avalanching patterns of toms and ride beat out from Jeremiah Ackermann’s kit.
Similarly, vocalist Alea Rae Clark works well with her rhythmic, darkly toned delivery of the album’s many introspective and complex lyrical themes, but jumps to another gear when going outside the box. After remarking on some songs that her lyrics might sound obscured or hard to make out, I was thrilled when she went for the throat in the last lashing, emotional stroke of “I Am More Directed,” or shot clear from a reflective forest of guitar chime at the close of “The Importance of Each Other.”
With song titles like those, you might be inclined to think that Douse is all art and no rock: the reality is very much to the contrary. This record shows every bit of the hard work that went into its creation, and represents a big stylistic step forward for the people behind it. What it sometimes lacks in catchiness it makes up for in focus. To be doused is akin to being hit with a water balloon straight to the chest: you’ll feel it, alright.
Top Tracks: “Worsening”; “I Am More Directed”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)