Both Ducks Ltd and Dolour were completely new to me in 2021. In Dolour’s case this is likely down to my inattention nearly two decades ago when Shane Tutmarc released ‘Suburbiac’, an album whose terrific PowerPop roots would surely have been just about visible beneath the kind of EmoPunkPop buffed sheen so prevalent at the time. Indeed Tutmarc himself has returned to those songs in recent times, scrubbing off some of that scent of Teen Spirit to reveal, in the newly recorded ‘Origin Story’ set, some of the jewels that lurked beneath. It’s the collection of new songs on ‘Televangelist’ though that really hit the mark in 2021 as Tutmarc reveals himself to be a conduit for the spirit of the Great American Songbook fed through a soft-pop psychedelic prism. Fizzing and sparkling with Raspberries flavoured Power Pop magic, these ten songs bounce down the sidewalk/pavement dodging Jan and Dean’s Summer raindrops. The Go-Gos are on speed-dial and there are piles of Tokens discs under the bed. You get the picture.
Then of course there’s the ghost of Tom Petty, summoned with love and devotion on uh, ‘The Day Tom Petty Died’. Tutmarc pulls off the tricky task of conjuring an homage from explicit references that manages to sound both reverential, celebratory and distinctively individual all at once. No mean feat.
Now if ‘Televangelist’ is a marvellous celebration of 1970s Power Pop then ‘Modern Fiction’ by Ducks Ltd performs a similar feat for 1980s guitar Indiepop. It all kicks off with a proto-Wedding Present jangle circa 1986 before taking up residence in a 1980s Dunedin transported to 2021 Toronto. There’s an explicit nod to The Chills in ‘Under The Rolling Moon’ but really the whole record is like some sort of magical portal to the past. It could be easy to level claims of pastiche to ‘Modern Fiction’, but it somehow just manages to deftly dodge such cheap shots. I mean, sure, ‘Always There’, with backing vocals provided by The Beths, could be a cover of a lost outtake from Look Blue Go Purple’s EP sessions filtered through Close Lobsters’ city of pattern, but that is no bad thing, surely? And if ’18 Cigarettes’ could have skived off the sessions for the Bats’ ‘Daddy’s Highway’ it’s also true to say that it manages to sound delectably fresh and current. Ducks Ltd may not so much wear influences on their sleeves as use the cloth to craft their entire outfit, yet they are such tremendous threads that you’ve got to applaud their taste and poise in carrying off the look.
‘Modern Fiction’ and ‘Televangelist’ each have ten songs of sublime Pop pleasure that’ll cost you just thirty minutes and change. Frankly, you’d be daft to miss either.