English songsmith released his third and most stripped back studio album to date, Milkteeth, in 2020 with Erased Tapes. Milkteeth sees Douglas become confident and comfortable enough with his own identity to reflect on both the joys and pains of youth. In doing so, he has established himself as a serious 21st century singer-songwriter with an enduring lyrical poise and elegant minimalist sound.
Douglas Dare grew up on a farm as the youngest member of a large extended family, where he was often found in his own private world, dancing in his mother’s pink ballet dress. “Only now do I feel free to express my inner child again, and am giving myself permission to play dress up,” says Dare of Milkteeth’s cover shot, in which he wears soft makeup and is draped with layers of white linen, acting the part of a Greek muse. “I never felt like I fit in. I was different, odd. I wanted to dance and sing and dress up and on a small farm in rural Dorset that really stuck out.”
He has often been compared to James Blake, but Milkteeth contains timeless ballads, and his sound becomes more introspective, a late night sound world that evokes both loneliness and comfort.
Dare signed to Erased Tapes after being spotted in his early 20s by founder Robert Raths. His debut Whelm (2014) was made on a battered grand piano, and on it he inhabited other people’s voices from historical sources; Aforger(2016) interrogated ideas about how we lie to ourselves, dealing with coming out to his father, and deployed a huge ensemble of instruments. “The last album was dark in every way,” he explains of Aforger. “And it had everything in – including the kitchen sink. With this record I wanted to show a lighter side, both instrumentally but also in the spirit of the album.”
His star keeps growing; in 2017 he was asked to contribute a re-interpretation of Dance Me To The End Of Love to the Leonard Cohen exhibition A Crack In Everything at the Contemporary Art Museum of Montréal, currently showing at The Jewish Museum in New York before opening at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in September 2020. He was invited by Robert Smith to perform at his Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre in 2018, followed by the David Lynch-curated Manchester International Festival alongside Anna Calvi in 2019.
Dare’s music speaks of his own experiences of universal themes like love, loss, and childhood. Perhaps most importantly, his music gives a voice and a sanctuary to anyone who’s ever felt unusual or out of place. Whether he’s singing of the pain of those in the Magdalene Laundries as on Whelm, describing coming out to his parents on Aforger, or processing his own childhood isolation on Milkteeth, Dare has a graceful honesty and an abiding clarity of vision in his simple and distinctive sound.