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Toronto’s Ducks Ltd. knew they wanted to grow as a band as they sat down to record their new second LP, ”Harm’s Way” out on Carpark and released February 9th.
Throughout the new LP, punchy drums and subtle keys add a lush underbelly to their signature churning, edgy guitar strumming. Ducks’ touchstone influences from the band roster of Sarah, Postcard, K, Creation, and Slumberland remain in full force on this concise 9-track, 28-minute LP. But to their credit, Ducks infuse a confident power into their janglepop tunes that elevate them above a nostalgic wannabe twee outfit.
To improve on their formula, for starters they opted to make the album in Chicago where they say many of their favorite bands are. While their prior LP and first EP were both self-recorded and self-produced in a Toronto basement, they sought out producer Dave Vettraino (Dehd, Deeper, Lala Lala). While the primary band remains a duo comprised of Evan Lewis and Tom McGreevy, they brought in a boatload of collaborators to assist with strings, drums, and BV’s.
“Historically our process has been really tightly controlled and insular. On this record, we worked with people who we trusted with a pretty wide range of musical backgrounds, and they had approaches and ideas that helped open up the record’s sonic palette,” explains McGreevy.
“Hollowed Out” kicks off the record with force. Efficient, revved up janglepop reminds of earlier Go-Betweens songs (think “In the Core of a Flame”), and pristine production along with light keys and a soaring chorus lift the song up, despite the dark lyrics.
Next up, “Cathedral City” kicks off with murky keys before majestic twanging guitars kick in. This tune sounds like a long-lost gem from the C-86 tape, and frankly betters many of the songs on that legendary cassette. Harmony vocals and a superb guitar solo carry this standout track.
“The Main Thing” (released as a single in October) is a cyclone featuring some of the fastest twee-pop you’ll ever hear, with callouts reminiscent of The Wedding Present’s pulsing, fierce, guitar strumming maelstrom. The energy doesn’t dissipate on the next track, “Train Full of Gasoline.” Chugging drums, twangy guitars, and nervous vocals all effectively conspire to grab attention, suggestive of Melbourne powerhouse, Rolling Blackouts C.F..
“Deleted Scenes” is a prime example of the band’s stated desire for progression. While it’s true that many Ducks songs pull from a narrow sonic template, this track brings subtle tempo and tone changes that ultimately freshen up and strengthen the record. It’s the longest track on the album and feels comparably like an epic despite it’s diminutive 3:16 minute stature.
Overall, “Harm’s Way” is a strong record with a feistiness you don’t always see within this genre of music. Though mostly uptempo and rollicking, the record closes with the initially somber “Heavy Bag”. It showcases sonic breadth and tempo/rhythm changes, with an arrangement of acoustic guitars, strings, and guitar effects not as readily heard elsewhere on the LP. Ducks are on the right track here, and hopefully there will be more of this on future releases.
As a final important note, Big T. writer Chip Midnight recently chatted with Tom and you can read the interview here.Links
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