In their somewhat self-titled debut, She’s The Dutchess, He’s The Duke, The Dutchess And The Duke popularized their lo-fi psychedelic folk with epic tracks like “Reservoir Park” and “I Am Just A Ghost”. With romantically-tinged dual male/female vocals, the duo of Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison reverted to a sound that hinted at another time, one strife with protest and objection to the powers that were, at the time, seen as opposed to the greater good. In that, The Dutchess And The Duke were debuting at a very similar time mentally, and while their sophomore release Sunset / Sunrise may have lost some of the politics, it has gained elsewhere.
Listening to that earlier release up against songs like “Hands” and “Never Had A Chance”, it’s easy to hear that, despite the maintaining of lo-fi traits, there’s a much greater production presence. It’s not nearly as gritty and raw as the last one, which is truly what made that album stand out. But, without those elements, The Dutchess And The Duke must rely more on their songwriting ability — it’s not that the production detracts from the music, it’s just that the lack of it (or, more so, the production to make it seem like there was a lack of it) is very noticeable. The good news: they deliver.
When it comes to production, it’s a compliment to their style. That stripped-down, elemental rustic sound from their debut was pretty damn amazing, but it’s hard to deny the greatness of these tunes. Simply put: that production just wouldn’t have cut it here. Prime example, “Living This Life” — the song is more a ballad than a rocker (of which this album has a few), and its inclusion of stringed accompaniment is precisely the reason their newfound production, provided by Greg Ashley, is warranted.
In a rare moment, Morrison takes the lead on the title track and on “When You Leave My Arms”. Again, the production adds greatly to both songs. It’s cleaner than those found on She’s / He’s, but not so much as to have reinvented the band. Still, the production isn’t the only big change — The Dutchess And The Duke have come a long way in terms of ability, and both these songs are key examples of the confidence they’ve gained in their songwriting and performance alike. Sunset / Sunrise easily matches the amazing power and creativity of The Dutchess And The Duke’s debut, and in fact gives Le Loup’s Family a run for Hardly Art’s best release yet.
The Dutchess And The Duke: Hands [mp3]
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The Dutchess And The Duke: Living This Life [mp3]
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Hardly Art [CD, 2009]
3. Let It Die
4. Living This Life
5. Sunrise / Sunset
6. Never Had A Chance
7. I Don’t Feel Anything
8. New Shadow
9. When You Leave My Arms
10. The River