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DUCKS LTD.

Ducks Ltd.

Harm's Way

    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.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    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.

    TRACK LISTING

    Side A
    1. Hollowed Out
    2. Catherdral City
    3. The Main Thing
    4. Train Full Of Gasoline
    5. Deleted Scenes
    Side B
    6. On Our Way To The Rave
    7. A Girl, Running
    8. Harm's Way
    9. Heavy Bag

    Ducks Ltd.

    Modern Fiction

      Toronto’s Ducks Ltd. (formerly Ducks Unlimited), the bright jangle-pop duo of Tom McGreevy (lead vocal, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Evan Lewis (guitar, bass, drum programming), accomplish the impossible. The pair craft songs that play to very specific inspirations without drowning underneath them—immediately evidenced on their critically acclaimed EP, Get Bleak, and sharpened on Modern Fiction, their debut LP. “The Servants, The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, Television Personalities, Felt,” Evan rattles off. “Look Blue Go Purple is one I reference a lot with our production.” Echoes of ‘80s indiepop abound, but they never overwhelm. This is not a nostalgic record, after all, nor is it a derivative one. Instead, across 10 cheery-sounding songs, Ducks Ltd. explore contemporary society in decline, examining large scale human disaster through personal turmoil (hence the title, taken from a university course called Gnosticism and Nihilism in Modern Fiction, influenced by Graham Greene novels. Bookish indie fans, look no further.)

      Writing the album was intimate. Tom drafted the nucleus of a song on an unplugged electric guitar and brought it over to Evan’s apartment, where the pair sat in his bedroom, placing percussive beats from a drum machine under nascent melodies, passing a bass back and forth, adding organs and bridges where necessary. “It’s computer music trying extremely hard not to sound like computer music,” Tom jokes. Fearful that limited and expensive studio time would kneecap the project creatively, eroding their charming naivete, the pair re-recorded the album in a storage space owned by Evan’s boss. Ornamentation through collaboration followed: there’s Aaron Goldstein on Pedal Steel in the Go-Betweens’ “Cattle and Cane”-channeling interlude “Patience Wearing Thin,” Eliza Niemi on cello (“18 Cigarettes,” a song loosely inspired by a 1997 Oasis performance of “Don’t Go Away”), and backing harmonies from Carpark labelmates The Beths (on an ode to friendship at a distance, “How Lonely Are You?,” “Always There,” and on the sped-up Syd Barrett stylings of “Under The Rolling Moon.”) While in his native Australia due to covid-19, Evan worked closely with producer James Cecil (The Goon Sax, Architecture in Helsinki) on Modern Fiction’s finishing touches—at one point, in the mountains of the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, recorded a string quartet (featured on “Fit to Burst,” “Always There,” “Sullen Leering Hope,” “Twere Ever Thus,” “Grand Final Day.”)

      It’s danceable, depressive fun, with some relief: in “Always There” and “Sullen Leering Hope,” Modern Fiction’s faithful heart. “There’s a tendency in my writing, because of my world view, to be very bleak.” Tom explains. “A quality I don’t always see in myself and really appreciate in others is the courage to go on.” And yet, the record manages resiliency—enough for pop fans to fall in love with. 


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Laura says: Ducks Ltd, the duo of Tom Mcgreevy and Evan Lewis formed in Toronto, Canada and are now based between there and Geelong, Australia. Channelling 80s UK indie pop and weaving in some antipodean charm, this is perfect sun-kissed jangle pop with a heavy dose of melancholy. An absolute delight. For fans of McCarthy, Flying Nun Records, RBCF, Horsebeach, Goon Sax....

      TRACK LISTING

      1. How Lonely Are You?
      2. Old Times
      3. 18 Cigarettes
      4. Under The Rolling Moon
      5. Fit To Burst
      6. Patience Wearing Thin
      7. Always There
      8. Sullen Leering Hope
      9. 'Twere Ever Thus
      10. Grand Final Day


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