FEATURE: The Dark Pop and Deep Reflection of Rousseau’s Debut EP ‘hello, i know you’re busy’

hello i know you're busy - rousseau
hello i know you're busy - rousseau

Mitch's Take

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“I think I’m having a quarter-life crisis.” Clare Barrett Rousseau wastes no time in setting a powerful scene on her debut EP, rushing out of the gate with an intimate outpouring of introspection that demands our attention and forces us to confront ourselves. Independently released on April 7th, hello, i know you’re busy is the ideal entrance, introducing the many shades of Rousseau’s dark pop identity while leaving us hungry for more.

hello i know you're busy - rousseau
hello i know you’re busy – rousseau

Intense soul-searching comes second nature to Rousseau, who packs layers of depth into EP opener “Sugar Plum.” Adapting the lead melody from Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Rousseau catapults listeners into her restless hunt for purpose and meaning. “Every day I get up, go to work, do my time, home at night, do it all again,” she chimes in the melodically dissonant entrance. Already, we feel tension rising. She admits to the insecurity of a life spent under fluorescent light in cubicles and office spaces: “Where did ten years go? Afraid I’m getting old,” she laments, wondering if there’s more to life than what meets the eye.

Waves of vivid emotion fuel Rousseau’s incredibly evocative voice as the New Zealander exposes her innermost thoughts and feelings. She jumps from brooding melancholy to graceful gusto and back again, pulling deftly at our heartstrings as isolated moments become relatable lessons: On “Familiar,” she enshrines desire for the unattainable, those taboo what if? thoughts that send helpless romantics spiraling into dangerous fantasy. “Desert Road” (previously premiered on Atwood Magazine) captures the raw pain of change, depicting a pivotal turning point as the artist stares into the dark depths of the unknown.

Oak barrels, caramel
Honey roasted pineapple
Golden and warming,
like early evening spring sun
Gold like the ring he gave me in autumn
I feel fancy drinking bubbly on holiday
But we’re not that fancy, are we, honey?
– “Glycerol Tears” by Rousseau
Rousseau © 2017
Rousseau © 2017

Rousseau’s ethereal, electro-tinged balladry is hauntingly beautiful and utterly breathtaking: She transforms idle memories into vast canvases of melody and imagery. She is at her most poignant on “Glycerol Tears,” a heart-shattering trip down memory lane that clings to the emotional simplicity and innocence of joy, drinking it in like booze from a glass. “This moment tastes sweet, I don’t want to grow up… Let me love you one drink at a time,” she implores in a whispered cry.

hello, i know you’re busy. The EP’s formal beg for pardon feels amplified in the abyss, but those who take the time to listen know Rousseau need not apologize for anything or justify herself: Her entrance is bold, thought-provoking and poetically reflective, amplified by a distinctly bass-heavy soundscape that strikes a balance between electronic and acoustic elements with poise and delicate care.

Turmoil marries tenacity on one of 2017’s most memorable debut releases: Through dark anthems, luscious soundscapes and stirring ballads, Rousseau invites us to share in her pain, her pleasure, her regrets, fears, and dreams. Stream the full record below, and peek inside Rousseau’s hello, i know you’re busy EP with Atwood Magazine as the artist provides her personal take on each of the EP’s songs.

:: Inside Rousseau ::

hello i know you're busy - rousseau

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Sugar Plum

In this track I wanted to personify the average millennial who has spent a couple of years in a professional job and is starting to question what they’re doing with their life. But I think it’s relatable to people at any stage of life, looking around wondering how they’ve gotten to where they are now, and whether it’s really making them happy. Talking Heads (Once in a Lifetime) was definitely an influence on this one.


There’s a poem by Walt Whitman called To a Stranger, which I feel captures the essence of what I was trying to do perfectly. It was funny how it worked out, but I actually didn’t discover it until after I’d finished writing Familiar, but when I read it I was like, I have to incorporate a line into the song. So that’s what you hear as spoken word in the bridge, “I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you.”

Petra Says

This was the first track on the album that we produced, and it’s one of my favourites simply because it’s the first one I’ve released as Rousseau. I’m trying to capture the melancholy of growing up, feeling underwhelmed by the “real world”, and realising the impermanence of things, but keep a sense of hope… If you watch the video, you might notice the book Jess is reading. It’s funny how it worked out. We just needed an orange book to fit our colour scheme, and the day before the shoot my penguin version of The Consolations of Philosophy pretty much fell out of the bookshelf and I knew it was right. I love that book and the way that Alain shows us how philosophy can help us to live our lives, to feel a little bit more normal in our weirdness.

Desert Road

I guess every moment is like this. We never really know what’s going to happen; we only think we do. I wanted to capture that kind of visceral, melancholic feeling that you get in a period of transition when you become hyper-aware of just how uncertain and how fragile life really is.

Glycerol Tears

Like most of my tracks, there’s a sweetness and a sense of hope and joy, but a kind of melancholic or even slightly dark undercurrent to it. At the time, I was in a really good place in my relationship, but I couldn’t just be totally happy about it, because I’ve always been so painfully aware that every feeling, and every connection is fleeting. So I wanted to prepare myself and my partner for that – I guess it’s a prayer for the present.

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:: stream/purchase Rousseau’s debut EP ::

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hello i know you're busy - rousseau

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cover: Rousseau © 2017

Premiere: Rousseau's Haunting “Desert Road” and the Raw Pain of Change

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