Ducks Ltd. today announced their sophomore album Harm’s Way will be released on February 9th, 2024, via Carpark Records. The Toronto duo has also shared urgent, chiming, and indelibly catchy lead single “Hollowed Out,” which features backing vocals from Ratboys’ Julia Steiner and Marcus Nuccio (who also plays drums on the track), Dehd’s Jason Balla, and Moontype’s Margaret McCarthy, as well as strings arranged and performed by Finom’s Macie Stewart. “There was a sinkhole that opened up on Dundas West a little while ago, in an area near to where I live. It shut down the road for a month. It had a strange resonance, partly because a lot of the streets in Toronto used to be rivers and streams running down to the lake that roads were then built over. It felt like an encroachment of nature into an urban environment–the river coming back to collapse a piece of civic infrastructure, and I built the song around the feeling that evoked,” explains singer/lyricist Tom McGreevy of the song, which can also be heard in a corresponding Colin Medley-directed video. “It’s about living with decline. About the feeling that the horizon of possibility in the world is forever being drawn in to align with the edges of the imaginations of a small group of careless rich people. And about existing through a state of ongoing catastrophe over which we have no control.” The follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 debut, Modern Fiction, Harm’s Way–produced by Dave Vettraino (Dehd, Deeper, Lala Lala)–is now available for pre-order.
“Hollowed Out” follows last month’s single and additional album track “The Main Thing,” which caught press attention from Rolling Stone (‘Songs You Need To Know’ playlist), Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, Paste (‘The Week’s Best New Songs’), Consequence, and Under The Radar, among many others.
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 Harm’s Way, the duo of McGreevy and guitarist 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. “They’re songs about struggling,” says McGreevy (who also plays bass and rhythm guitar). “About watching people I care for suffer, and trying to figure out how to be there for them. And about the strain of living in the world when it feels like it’s ready to collapse.”
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. “When we got signed, we had played maybe five or six shows ever. After last year, it’s in the hundreds. That experience can change your perception of your own music and songwriting,” says McGreevy. “In the past when we got stuck on a song we had a tendency to look at our favorite records to see how they tackled it. But now, instead of asking ‘what would Orange Juice do?’, we’d ask, ‘what would we do?’
The band, fortified by this strong sense of sonic identity and a self-assurance in their new material—and in contrast to Modern Fiction and their 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. “We realized that so many of our favorite bands who are making guitar music right now are from Chicago,” says McGreevy. Working with Vettraino, they enlisted a marquee cast of Windy City collaborators to round out the tracks on Harm’s Way, including: Stewart (violin, string arrangements); Nuccio (drums on most tracks); Balla (who helped arrange the backing vocals, to which he also contributed); and backing vocals from Steiner, Nathan O’Dell (Dummy), McCarthy, 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.
Ducks Ltd. are a band that already thrives on skirting the edges of buoyant jangle pop and driving power pop, and the duo credits these collaborators with helping to push their sound even further. “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. 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.
Ducks Ltd. have also announced a hometown record release show at Sonic Boom on February 8th, with Only God Forgives and Cootie Catcher supporting, and a stop at Montreal’s Taverne Tour Festival on February 10th. The band will perform next this Saturday, December 2nd, at TV Eye in Ridgewood, Queens, with The Ophelias and Golden Apples as support. Ducks Ltd. will also head overseas to London, England, this spring for a show at the Moth Club on May 27th, 2024. More dates will be announced soon.