Toronto duo Ducks Ltd — Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis — made one of the best debut albums of 2021 with Modern Fiction. It’s a record that recalls the heyday of ’80s indie guitar pop (The Go-Betweens, The Feelies, The Wedding Present) and does so with gusto, conviction, and wit, not to mention big hooks and choruses. If you haven’t given this one a spin, you can listen below.
We asked Tom and Evan what their favorite music of the year was, and they sent us a list of five songs each, complete with commentary. Read that, and listen to a playlist with all 10 songs, below.
Ducks Ltd will be on tour in 2022, including dates with Nation of Language in the spring. Before that they’ll play a few headline shows, including Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right on February 16 with 2nd Grade (tickets). All dates are listed below.
Ducks Ltd’s Favorite Songs of 2021
Good Morning – “Country”
I was extremely taken by this song, in a “I had to listen to it 30 times in a row the first time I heard it” kind of way. I am legitimately concerned that I might have listened to it over 100 times at this point. The structure is entirely strophic, which is always something I’m excited by when a band manages to get away with it (we’ve tried! It never works!), and the whole arrangement sounds like a perfect little piece of machinery. “Sometimes I still think about dying/no not the fear but the want/not quite as much as I did back then but it’s still something I’m trying to work on” might be my favourite lyric I’ve heard this year. Relatable content!
Hardy feat. Rhett Atkins & The Cadillac Three – “One Of Y’all”
Speaking of country! I think I’m already on the record saying I love Hardy, but I’m happy to say it again. I say it all the time! My friends would like me to stop! I earnestly think he has a claim to being one of the best songwriters currently working, certainly in his particular world, and this song encapsulates what makes him special as well as any. He has this thing where he is very much of country music, but has a deep awareness of its absurdities and he sends them up while communicating a clear earnest love of those tropes. On a purely technical level as a lyricist and a songwriter he’s just so so skillful. His stuff has all the trappings of modern country radio, which I understand will turn some people off, but the songs are reliably beautifully constructed, incredibly fun and occasionally poignant. Within the radio country context the production choices are consistently surprising too (see the weird two hand tapped guitar lead that sits in the back of the mix all the way through the back half of these choruses). I think for me the greatest pleasure of his stuff is the way he works with phrasing and line breaks to play with your expectations. Eg: “One of y’all hates your day shift boss/one of y’all pissed your girlfriend off/one of y’alls got a truck she tossed/a rock at and made you sleep in.” God he’s wonderful!
Girl Ray – “Give Me Your Love”
I’ve been a big Girl Ray fan since I heard “Stupid Things” off their first record, which is still a major favourite. I love Poppy Hankin’s voice so much! She has such an interesting sense of melody and she has a way of sounding both bored and earnest that I find incredibly cool. They started out getting compared to c86 acts and talking about Todd Rundgren a lot (just like us!), but this one is synth-based and just on the edge of being a dance track. Really cool to see them port what they do into a totally different context and have it still work as well as it does.
UV-TV – “Back To Nowhere”
I’ve been really digging this record lately and I think this is my favourite cut from it. It’s got that Echo & The Bunnymen adjacent guitar part in the intro/post-chorus section that I get excited about every time it comes in, and I love the way the backing vocals work in the chorus. Also the big rest coming out of the choruses! Gah I wish we’d thought of that! This whole record just has such a bounce to it. Can’t wait to see them live one day.
Mo Troper – “The Expendables Ride Again”
I love Mo! We’re playing with him next year and I’m so excited for it. Truly a power pop songwriter who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the old masters, and this song is just another example of his excellence and his genius for melody. His whole catalog is great (I’m a particular fan of his 2017 album Exposure & Response), but as far as I can tell he’s never written a bad song. Sometimes (and this is entirely true) when I feel like I should write a song but I’m struggling to find the motivation I’ll just listen to a Mo Troper album and then realize that songs are good and fun and worth writing. He’s so good that he can deliver me from sloth & apathy! Imagine what Mo could do for you!
Dry Cleaning – “Scratchcard Lanyard”
Probably my favourite album of the year. I love the deadpan absurdist vocals. It’s perfectly strange and alluring. What’s not to love about a song that says “pat dad on the head.”
Raymour – “Holly Mother”
The entire Raymour album, Leviosa, is super good. I really like the production. They use vintage tones but manage to sound modern and not derivative. It’s its own thing and is a really great record.
Nation Of Language – “This Fractured Mind”
This track really nails that early Depeche Mode and OMD vibe. I’m a huge fan of those bands and this track stands up alongside the best cuts from those records. So many great melodies throughout
Molly Lewis – “Oceanic Feeling”
I love Clara Rockmore, the theremin player, whose albums have finally been reissued. Molly’s whistling reminds me a lot of her theremin. It’s hauntingly beautiful and was really a treat to discover.
Dean Blunt – “DASH SNOW”
I’ve been a fan of Dean Blunt since I heard the first BLACK METAL album so I was very excited to hear BLACK METAL 2. It did not disappoint. His music is equal parts gentle and hard at the same time. It’s hard to pin down which I really like.
Ducks Ltd – 2022 Tour Dates
Wed, JAN 26, 2022 – Lee’s Palace – Toronto, Canada
Thu, FEB 3, 2022 – Taverne Tour 2022 – Montréal, Canada
Sat, FEB 5, 2022 – Quai Des Brumes – Montréal, Canada
Wed, FEB 16, 2022 – Baby’s All Right – Brooklyn, NY
Sat, FEB 19, 2022 – Green Door Store – Brighton, United Kingdom
Sun, FEB 20, 2022 – Windmill Brixton – London, United Kingdom
Tue, FEB 22, 2022 – Crofters Rights – Bristol, United Kingdom
Thu, FEB 24, 2022 – Clwb Ifor Bach – Cardiff, United Kingdom
Fri, FEB 25, 2022 – The Victoria – Birmingham, United Kingdom
Sat, FEB 26, 2022 – Yes – Manchester, United Kingdom
Sun, FEB 27, 2022 – Sneaky Pete’s – Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Mon, FEB 28, 2022 – Broadcast – Glasgow, United Kingdom
Wed, MAR 2, 2022 – Headrow House – Leeds, United Kingdom
Tue, MAR 22, 2022 – Polaris Hall – Portland, OR
Wed, MAR 23, 2022 – The Wise – Vancouver, Canada
Thu, MAR 24, 2022 – Treefort Music Fest 2022 – Boise, ID
Thu, MAR 24, 2022 – Sunset Tavern – Seattle, WA
Tue, MAR 29, 2022 – Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO
Wed, MAR 30, 2022 – recordBar – Kansas City, MO
Thu, MAR 31, 2022 – Fine Line Music Cafe – Minneapolis, MN
Fri, APR 1, 2022 – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL
Sat, APR 2, 2022 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO
Sun, APR 3, 2022 – Hi-Fi – Indianapolis, IN
Wed, APR 6, 2022 – Ace of Cups – Columbus, OH
Thu, APR 7, 2022 – Lee’s Palace – Toronto, Canada
Fri, APR 8, 2022 – Bar Le Ritz PDB – Montreal, Canada