C Duncan

FatCat Records, 2019

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


It’s been two years since C Duncan has released an album of new material (remix albums do not count in my estimation). Happily, it has been worth the wait. While he has retained his signature vocals and ethereal keyboards, Duncan has made a number of the songs more upbeat (and even danceable, in some cases). The songwriting remains as strong as ever. Craig Potter of Elbow helped with production, giving the album some additional polish and nuance that help make it sound a bit sharper and more fully realized.

The album opens strong with the propulsive “Talk Talk Talk.” The vocal harmonies and dream pop sensibility work surprising well with the disco/pop beat and staccato string arrangement. Other tracks on the album continue in this vein, including “Impossible,” “Blasé,” and the title track. The stylistic range is much broader on this album than on his others, as he is heard here dabbling with other genres. For instance, Duncan describes “Holiday Home” as his “attempt at Yacht Rock.” Maybe it is just their novelty, but I think they are the best tracks on the album. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The pacing of the album picks up and slows down across the album with an almost rhythmic pulse. Some of the songs are the familiar slow and wispy dream pop/chamber pop style from his previous albums, but they have lost none of their potency. “He Came From The Sun” would have easily fit in on The Midnight Sun, but nonetheless sits comfortably between two of the more upbeat songs on the album. However, his vocal style and unique melodies create continuity between that songs and brings coherence to the album.

Similar to its predecessor, the album closes with “Care,” a slow, piano-based waltz with the layered vocals sounding almost like a choir. Duncan remarks in an interview, “I always like to save the saddest song for last on my records.” It is short, simple, and sweet song in Duncan’s understated style, but it feels slight. While a nice song in its own right, it leaves the album feeling a bit open-ended, or as if this song ended up at the end of the track list instead of being deliberately written as the conclusion.

Overall, I would say that the album is front-loaded with its best material, with the less-memorable songs relegated to the end. Nonetheless, this album marks a step forward for C Duncan as it displays enough confidence in his craft to branch out a bit from the familiar but still has the sense to retain what it is about him that makes his work so distinctive. While it seems like he may have hedged his bets artistically, it does not feel compromised. Minor criticisms aside, it stands as perhaps his best work to date.

Rating: A-

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