Friday, February 16, 2024

Ducks Ltd.'s New Album ‘Harms Way’ is a Settled Reprise of a Sound Much Loved

It was always going to be difficult for Jangle pop outfit Ducks Ltd. to replicate the brilliance of their critically acclaimed album ‘Modern Fiction'. Songs like ‘18 cigarettes’ and ‘Under the Rolling Moon’ have bounded upon our musical tastebuds with a lasting charm that has been difficult to shake. 

Yet in the wake of cascading guitars and beautiful melodies, the band have seemingly recreated their sonic brilliance in their latest album, ‘Harms Way’, collecting a competent plethora of singles that move with a pace that leave us rocked by its clanging and then quickly lulled by its sincerity.

 Not only does ‘Harms Way’ confirm the strength of the band's restless indie hitmaking, but it also allows us to further indulge in the duo's brilliantly unique storytelling.

The first song on the album, ‘Hollowed Out’, immediately descends us into a familiar guitar-wielding melee. A perfect opener, the track is loose in its arrangement but catchy in its jangling guitars and infectious ensemble vocals. Unearthing a joyous enthusiasm throughout, the track's lyrical content opposes its shimmering aesthetic, creating an interesting story as we read between the lines. As thrashing guitar parts  naively scratch around a playful melody, Tom McGreevy’s lyrics talk of darker times of unpredictable futures and mundane routines. Not afraid of unusual imagery and stylized rhythmic choices, lyrics like “meet me where the asphalt leaks”, and “all we ever do is leave’”decorate the track and allow us to invest our ears past the musical surface.The contrast of the album's colourful musical exterior, pitched against thought-provoking and often bleak lyricism, is a theme that constantly reappears throughout the entirety of the band's recently refurbished discography. Ducks ltd. manage to masterfully create a well-balanced picture of life’s tendency to throw at us the very worst when we least expect it.

While we are usually met by the familiar jangling of Ducks Ltd.'s songwriting, I feel the standout track of this album, ‘Heavy Bag', is brilliant in its pensive and sincere musical choreography, providing a snapshot of the way in which the band's charm can hold such emotional weight. Acting as the fourth of their singles to be released in prelude to their album ‘Harms Way’‘Heavy Bag’ retains the band's familiar rhythmic melodies in a way that is warm and well-mannered throughout. Utilising beautiful textures and inspiring orchestral elements, the track creeps forward into a harmonious retreat, leaving us in the midst of a musical daydream. Not redundant of the bands playful lyrical content, the words are catchy, providing bookmarks in the bands musical conversation, and lines like “I keep on listening to the boys are back in town” are stuck on the tips of our tongues minutes after their ending. There is evidence of musical inspiration littered throughout this track and the rest of the album, as the use of typically vintage chorus rattles from the strings of the duo's guitars creating a sound not too dissimilar to that of The La’s or the Cranberries, befitting a blueprint for timeless melodies  that Ducks Ltd. have managed to throw across the whole album. Tracks like ‘Deleted Scenes’ and ‘The Main Thing' thrust the album forward in their relative scrappy simplicity, as brilliantly produced guitar parts strike us with the band's almost obsessive dedication to achieve the perfect indie guitar tone. It is worth acknowledging the albums collective energy that allows us to intake its beauty as a whole, no track stands out as weaker than the other as ‘Harms Way’, definitely benefits from the heightened production value offered by Dave Vettraino (Dehd Deeper).The shared decision to include  discreet synth swells  and perfectly married vocal counterparts builds on the brilliance of their cheerful musicality and sharpens the rough creases that are often found in the bands musical toolkit.

 ‘Harm’s Way’ is overall a sharper- high definition  picture of the band's joyous indie mastery,  brimming with cleverness, joy, and sincerity  the album is fresh but never roams too far from the band's authentic roughened roots. Released on CarPark Records, the album is another addition to the long list of brilliant albums we have already heard in 2024, and I hope to see Ducks Ltd  on their U.K. tour beginning in May.

Ewan Bourne


Image: ‘Harms Way’ Official Album Cover


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