As the spatial beats of Jeremiah Ackermann’s drums open “The Importance of Each Other” which are later accompanied by the delicate keys of Patrick Farrugia, an anticipation arises that Douse‘s debut album will be a wonderful experience. When frontwoman Alea Rae Clark’s gorgeous vocals enter the scene along with the delayed, crystalline guitar, the expectations are quickly changed. This isn’t just a moment in time to enjoy but an event to behold.

The Light In You Has Left is a gorgeous album, whereby the New Westminster, British Columbia trio make the devastating beautiful. The brooding, lifetime-oriented songwriting is akin to The National, and it is elevated by the emotive, cinematic soundscapes, which echo Daughter. And like the records of these two indie giants, Douse has created a deeply introspective and personal album that will resonate with most listeners.

“The Importance of Each Other” is just the tip of the iceberg and one of the LP’s highlights. The slow build that leads to the breathtaking climax is stunning, perfectly complementing Clark’s story of a broken relationship. As she sings, “We won’t love one another, we’re not capable of this”, one realizes how fragile love is. The dramatic “Unrest” is like the oncoming of a storm – peaceful at first before the sonic swells arrive and completely subsume our souls. And a storm is the protagonist in the song, as “Unrest” is not a verb but a person seeking liberation.

The dazzling, cinematic overtures are repeated on “Speak To Carry Us”. The oft-kilter arrangements add to the uncertain atmosphere that Clark has created in her story of a relationship on the rocks. But as she so eloquently describes, too often people ignore the signs and fail to communicate, choosing instead to live together in silence.

The enrapturing “Cave In” and “Hypertension” demonstrate the band’s maturation. The pacing is controlled to give the songs a more suspenseful and, in the case of the former, even sinister feel. The two tracks are instances where the music perfectly mirrors the stories. On “Cave In”, the feeling of being trapped in a relationship is the focus. Meanwhile, a deeper, more personal struggle is at play on the spectacular “Hypertension”. Whether it is depression, another mental illness, or feeling lost and afraid, Douse have delivered a powerful song and arguably their finest. It is also the one track that clearly resonates The National with its brooding yet anthemic framework.

Douse do let loose on “I Am More Directed”. Still methodical in its pacing, the song builds into a surprising rocker. Ackermann’s drumming and Farrugia’s guitar playing get more menacing and assertive. Clark’s voice even tinges with pain and anger at first before she unleashes a scream during the climax. The track is a hint of what is possible for this band should they choose to move outside their comfort zones.

The album ends quietly yet gracefully. Channeling her bedroom-pop beginnings, “Careless” is a stripped-down, fragile tune that features largely Clark and an electric guitar. The finale, “There Is Something I Will Return To”, is a peaceful, instrumental number. The slight instrumentation gives the track a levitating feeling, where one life has ended but a new one has begun.

In many ways, the song mirrors the experience of Alea Rae Clark, Jeremiah Ackermann, and Patrick Farrugia. On the one hand, they have closed the chapter as Alea Rae and just started their lives as Douse. On the other hand, they have challenged themselves to and in the process found their sound. Discovered what they want to be – who they want to be – and the outcome of that journey is something beautiful. The Light In You Has Left, in sort, is memorable.

The Light in You Has Left is available now on Bandcamp, iTunes (CAN | US | UK), and Spotify.

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Featured photo by Elissa Crowe

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