As side projects go, Matt Mondanile's Ducktails has proved just as fulfilling to date as his role on guitar with the equally acclaimed Real Estate. While his first half dozen releases amounted to little more than a collection of sparsely produced bedroom experiments, 2011's 'III: Arcade Dynamics' highlighted Mondanile's glowing potential as a prolific songwriter not to mention conscientious arranger-cum-producer.
Here, he's assembled an impressive collection of conspirators; Cults' Madeline Follin, Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never, Sam Mehran of Outer Limitz not to mention Al Carlson - whose most recent work saw him take over the whole production mantle on Peaking Lights' 'Lucifer' - overseeing the mixing process here. Add to that fellow New Jersey ensemble Big Troubles providing much of the musical accompaniment on the record; an underrated combo themselves as 201' 'Romantic Comedy' long player ably demonstrated upon release, if cruelly ignored by the masses.; and you've a concoction of riches good enough to enhance any collection of songs.
With 'The Flower Lane', recorded over the course of last summer in his hometown, Mondanile has managed to channel the ideas bristling from his previous records with a psychedelic pop sheen that recalls The Byrds, 'Sonic Flower Groove' era Primal Scream, and even Talking Heads in places. While opener 'Ivy Coloured House' announces itself via its creator's "Well hello it's me again." and Rickenbacker melody chiming succulently alongside, the melodramatic title track shows a more intrinsic side to Mondanile's nature ("Now she's gone and I feel a mess").
Picking up the tempo is the eloquent 'Under Cover', where darkly orchestrated synths and a slinky saxophone solo in the final third hark back to a time when Chinos and Deacon Blue were all the rage. Similarly, the piano heavy montage 'Timothy Shy' takes bashful chamber pop scuttling onto the dancefloor. Better still is Mondanile's cover of 'Planet Phrom', a song first recorded in 1989 by Peter Gutteridge, formerly of New Zealand indie darlings The Chills and The Clean. While not straying too far from the original, its Christmas-for-all-seasons vibe supersedes the melancholic message conveyed within.
The gorgeous, lilting 'Sedan Magic', one of Madeline Follin's two vocal contributions here, also regales a seductive charm sadly lacking in most modern-day pop. "Won't you stay with me for just a little while?" pleads Follin over a refined, if suitably modest three-chord melody. Not to be outdone, Future Shuttle's Jessa Farkas and Big Troubles singer/songwriter Ian Drennan turn 'Letter Of Intent' into a romantically dreamy beat-driven ode to unrequited love. Ending on the shimmering, semi-acoustic 'Academy Avenue', where Mondanile turns the reverb up to eleven for a lazy stroll down memory lane, 'The Flower Lane' might not be the record that elevates Ducktails into the same stratospheres currently occupied by some of his peers, but overall it represents a cogent development that bodes well for Matt Mondanile's future musical excursions.
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