To the children of the 80s, the name Duckie holds a special meaning. It’s not young girls pouting their lips in Facebook photos or a child’s endearing term for our feathered friends who migrate south for the winter. Duckie is an icon of the John Hughes legacy that conjures images of the sweet, dorky best friend who saves prom day for a pastel-clad Molly Ringwald. It harkens back to a decade of outsider innocence where Madonna topped the charts with a song about Papa preaching. Listening to the Baltimore duo Lovers and Reflections is like throwing on “Pretty in Pink” and crushing on Andrew McCarthy. It’s a trippy synthy-pop prom of foggy landscape and heart-tugging emotion with vocalist, Regan Rebecca’s quivery coo’s serenading your slow dance.
For their self-released debut, Swords, the duo falls into a sounds-like category between Blondie and Cyndi Lauper with dark dance tracks that manage to avoid coming across as covers or insincere. While this genre has been revisited lately on albums such as the “Drive” soundtrack, Swords doesn’t feel worn out. The pair maintains a freshness while tapping into a bygone genre that’s already circled back around to being hip again; no small feat.
While on a track-by-track basis, Swords has one of those who-is-this-band-you’re-playing sounds. The quirk and intrigue after a track or two gets a bit mundane, however, a song like “Bums and Beggars” is so intoxicating that it will likely to be on repeat after a single play. The melodic synergy between Rebecca’s sweet yearning vocals and the rhythmic pulse of musician and producer, Chris Moore’s swaying, romantic thread creates a magical mix of soft and hard that is ultimately very catchy.
It’s not surprising that Moore has mixed and engineered for bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. You get his pop-synth aesthetic here on Swords, but it feels less brash and more refined to fit Rebecca’s vocals specifically. Perhaps this harmony is due the fact that the album is according the band, “a numerically correct concept album based on the swords suite of the Tarot.” Conceptually, this could be brilliant, but unfortunately, by the time you get to track 11, “The Photography,” it becomes a wash of songs that sound too much the same. Good songs, but it’s hard to decipher between the tunes. I wouldn’t throw on Swords to listen to as whole on the regular, but a track or two will definitely make it into my “Breakfast Club” playlist for those days when you need to take a break from the now and just want to dance.
Three words to describe Swords: Swooning — Synth-Pop — Sway
This album would go well with: An after-hours dance hall or the subtle glow of birthday candles and Jake Ryan.
Favorite songs: “Bums and Beggars” traps you in a haunting lovely haze of sweet melodies and tinkering keys. You find yourself swaying and hitting repeat. Title track “Swords” is what you would throw on if you speeding through town to make a heartfelt confession to your lover; montage music that is just very likable.
Words: Rene Riehl