NICHOLAS KRGOVICH- Ducks ORD-69
Release date: March 10, 2023
Ursula Le Guin’s short story, “Solitude,” describes a society rooted in the absolute autonomy of the individual. In the world she constructs, people do almost everything alone, and they learn to savor this condition through close, deep observation of all the minutiae surrounding them in the woods, the dirt, the sky. A favored pastime is for a person to spend the night alone on a hill top, watching the patterns of stars wheeling overhead without letting their attention wander; another is to pursue long solo journeys into new landscapes whose unfamiliarity intensifies the pleasure of solitary contemplation.
Nicholas Krgovich’s new album, Ducks, similarly explores the rich experience of solitude, and the many quiet revelations that are available in even the most mundane moments. Each of the album’s eleven songs presents a closely-observed vignette of simply being alive and sentient in such moments: Krgovich describes himself mailing a letter, waking up on a hot day, combing the beach for shells, mowing the lawn, and noticing his own thoughts and feelings about these activities along the way. The album’s vibe of radical presence is emphasized both lyrically and in its production. Each song has a kind of meditative quality, a pulse that guides the ear down a straight path, moving while somehow also staying rooted in place. Airy guitar noodling drifts above simple percussion, often consisting of just a couple of sounds. An egg shaker comes in and out with great precision. The surprising chord progressions that characterize much of Krgovich’s previous music are here as well, and this combination—unexpected harmonic changes on top of the other elements’ regularity—feels like a wordless evocation of the lyrics’ theme: that there are revelations to be found even within the regular and daily. We can always be surprised by ourselves and/in the world.
I hear Ducks as an extremely middle-aged album, which I mean as a compliment. Track 1, “Front Stoop 2,” opens with a proclamation of loneliness—“For years and years I guess I was lonely, but refused to call it so”—tempered with the pleasing realization that acknowledging this fact might be a sign of maturity: “I could say a thousand other things but why/to answer a plain question with a plain reply/feels new to me and good.” The exhausting melodrama of youth is gone now, as is the younger person’s sometimes charming, sometimes obnoxious lack of self awareness. Krgovich has attained a certain age, and is now comfortable with himself and with the things he knows and feels. He is even comfortable with discomfort, as we hear on the final song, “Eating Last Year’s Apples in July,” where he repetitively intones “there was love in this house for a time/you brought it in.” This simple acknowledgment of the inevitable passage of time—and the losses it often wreaks—is certainly melancholy, and yet it doesn’t swamp him as it might have done in earlier, angstier times. Krgovich’s vocal delivery throughout the album emphasizes this middle-aged quality. His uninflected voice never rages or wails, never gets louder or softer, except when it falls down too deep for his vocal range to follow, and trails off in a raspy whisper, like no big deal.
It’s hard not to hear Ducks through the frame of loneliness suggested by its first and last songs, and yet elsewhere the narrator is enmeshed in a thrumming web of sociality within which he seems content. This too feels like a manifestation of middle-aged wisdom. Sometimes a thoughtful life calls for quiet reflections on loneliness, but other times it demands recognition of the pleasures of togetherness. This latter mode is probably most evident on the titular song “Ducks,” which teems with life. Opening via a quiet old-school Casio beat, the song soon blossoms, as thick-strummed acoustic guitar and sustained synth chords fill the space. Here we are shown a glimpse of “A fine day in the sun/for everyone,” replete with dogs playing and ducks swimming. Of the titular ducks, he sings “What they know seems real.” This evocation of the “realness” of everything, the inclusion of ducks and dogs in the word “everyone,” feels wholesome and radical.
The way such non-human animals run and play through so many of these songs is also part of what gives Ducks its strongly seasonal, earthy aspect. The cold freshness of “Spring Rain” gives way to the fine summer day of “Ducks” and the hot sun and sweat of “Return.” A few songs later it’s Halloween, and the house is “lit like a pumpkin.” Meanwhile in “Scorpio Rising” it’s the narrator’s birthday, and he eats “the last of the sweet summer plums,” as single keyboard notes softly echo his voice like the first freak snowflakes of autumn. As with Le Guin’s short story, one comes away from Ducks with a strong impression of the depth and beauty of even the simplest aspects of terrestrial life—its seasons, its tastes, its blades of grass—as well as the pleasures of a closely-observed solitude and the cosmic loneliness that is so often such solitude’s companion.
- Front Stoop #2 (3:09)
- Coyote (3:15)
- Spring Rain (2:58)
- Ducks (2:47)
- Cup Full (2:08)
- Return (3:42)
- Rest (3:24)
- Who (2:57)
- How (2:00)
- Scorpio Rising (Grace Chen) (3:11)
- Eating Last Year’s Apples in July (2:45)
500 140 gram vinyl LPs with full color labels in poly-lined innersleeves & extra heavyweight, full color photo jackets, plus double-sided, 2-color, Risograph-printed lyric sheets. 11 tracks, 32 minutes.
Vinyl pre-orders are expected to ship by the end of February 2023.
Ducks is distributed by The Business.