Ducks Ltd. Crack the Jangle Pop Code on 'Modern Fiction'

Ducks Ltd. Crack the Jangle Pop Code on 'Modern Fiction'
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Ducks Ltd. make it sound easy. Across all 10 tracks on their debut album, Modern Fiction, the band find a perfect combination of jangling indie pop arpeggios, careening rhythms and Tom McGreevy's beautifully unvarnished singing.

The best songs are sublime — like when "18 Cigarettes" or "Under the Rolling Moon" go widescreen in their transcendent choruses — but even the worst ones are simply very good. There's little variation in quality, as if the band formerly known as Ducks Unlimited have struck upon such a perfect, ageless-sounding combination that it's impossible for them to miss.

That's not true, of course. No one is infallible, and even the best bands falter occasionally — which is why the duo of McGreevy and Evan Lewis have pulled off an incredible magic trick by sounding like they've cracked the code to perfect jangle pop. They don't disguise their reference points, drawing on the twee sensitivity of vintage C86 bands, the posh string flourishes of Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian, and the classicism of 2010s revivalists like Beach Fossils and Real Estate. They never lean too hard on any one influence, resulting in a sound that's vaguely retro without resembling any era in particular.

Ducks Ltd. wisely keep Modern Fiction at a concise 10 songs, improving on their prior Get Bleak EP without varying much from its sound. There aren't any ballads, and the minute-and-a-half-long instrumental "Patience Wearing Thin" is the closest thing to a curveball, its reverb-drenched slide work faintly evoking country in addition to the usual jangle pop. They stick with what they know, and they have it down to a flawless science. (Royal Mountain Records)