In the time that has passed since The Dutchess and The Duke released their debut, She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke, the Pacific Northwest duo has grown considerably. Having toured the states without a percussionist and with technical difficulties forcing them to improvise, Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison explored the limits of their music, sometimes playing shows without any amplification at all. Add to that Lortz’s newfound fatherhood, and you have the makings of a band who emerges more mature and more confident than before.
Sunset/Sunrise, the band’s second album, stylistically continues the folky garage pop sound that made their debut such a welcome surprise. Yet Lortz’s songs are just that much stronger this time around, and sound much richer and fuller thanks to some deft studio work from producer Greg Ashley, of San Francisco’s The Gris Gris. Opener “Hands” is a slow-building, Morricone-influenced tune with a slow, suspenseful waltz and blazing riffs enhancing Lortz’s down-on-his-luck perspective (“everything I do is wrong,” he sings in the first verse). “Scorpio” is a bit more upbeat, but still elegantly arranged, as Morrison lends her backup vocals to the tune, which is propelled by the lament, “I’m a long, long way from you.” There’s a little less Dylan and a little more Springsteen in the sprightly strummer “Let It Die,” while “Living This Life” shuffles along a jangly Rickenbacker melody. At only two minutes, “I Don’t Feel Anything” is the shortest track, but easily one of the best, as its classic, early rock `n’ roll sound makes it one of the brightest and most stunning tracks here.
While Sunset/Sunrise isn’t an extraordinary leap from the band’s debut, it finds Lortz and Morrison refining their sound in an effort to create something even stronger. The Dutchess and The Duke are sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking, but always creating something quite wonderful. And as Sunset/Sunrise displays, their strength as musicians and songwriting is only getting better.
MP3: “Living This Life”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.