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Ducks Ltd. make inviting and frenetic guitar pop for when life feels overwhelming. While the band’s songs are ostensibly breezy, a palpable anxiety boils underneath that communicates something deeper about everyday existence. On their latest album Harm’s Way, the Toronto duo of Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis hones in on interpersonal and societal collapses, urban decay, and the near-impossibility of keeping a level head when everything around you seems to be falling apart.
Even with its often dark subject matter, Harm’s Way is Ducks Ltd.’s most vividly rendered and collaborative collection yet. It’s an undeniable evolution for the band, not just in how these songs soar, but in their entire writing and recording processes. Composed on tour while supporting acts like Nation of Language, Illuminati Hotties, and Archers of Loaf, the album displays the band’s finely tuned songcraft and well-earned, road-tested confidence.
The band, fortified by this strong sense of sonic identity and a self-assurance in their new material—and in contrast to their critically acclaimed 2021 debut Modern Fiction and 2019 EP Get Bleak, both self-recorded and self-produced in a Toronto basement—wanted to bring Harm’s Way to life in a new city, with an outside producer, and with some of their favorite musicians. Working with producer Dave Vettraino, they enlisted a marquee cast of Windy City collaborators to round out the tracks on Harm’s Way, including: Finom’s Macie Stewart; Ratboys’ Marcus Nuccio; Dehd’s Jason Balla; and backing vocals from Julia Steiner (Ratboys), Nathan O’Dell (Dummy), Margaret McCarthy (Moontype), Rui De Magalhaes (Lawn), and Lindsey-Paige McCloy (Patio). The band’s touring drummer, Jonathan Pappo, and bassist Julia Wittman also appear on the LP.
Harm’s Way’s lush, melodic swagger is clear from the first notes of opener “Hollowed Out.” A song about living with decline (inspired by a Toronto sinkhole), its bright, indelible catchiness serves in contrast to its lyrical unease. Anchored by Lewis’ shimmering electric guitar, “The Main Thing” laments growing apart from a person whose views you once shared while managing to toss in references to both the unglamorous lives of middle relief baseball pitchers and the occult. Other songs split the difference between country and krautrock, like the rollicking “Train Full of Gasoline,” which uses the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Quebec as a metaphor for self-destructive patterns.
Harm’s Way is Duck Ltd.’s most intuitive and organic album yet, the result of keen observation, self-possessed songwriting, and a collaborative spirit. Building on the successes of their previous releases, the deeply relatable album displays a band operating at a nuanced, lyrical and musical best.
Barry says: Another uplifting slice of jangling guitar and post-punk adjacent songwriting sensibilities from Canada-based Ducks Ltd. It's hugely anthemic in parts, reminiscent of the soaring choruses of Hot Water Music or The Icarus Line, but lightened with a real focus on melody and groove and the perfectly droll vocals of Tom McGreevy.
1. Hollowed Out
2. Catherdral City
3. The Main Thing
4. Train Full Of Gasoline
5. Deleted Scenes
6. On Our Way To The Rave
7. A Girl, Running
8. Harm's Way
9. Heavy Bag