Release Date: Jul 24, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Matt Mondanile might be best known as the guitarist in mellow indie rockers Real Estate, but he has been recording as Ducktails for longer, with an initial emphasis on more experimental, lo-fi amorphous jamming. As time has gone on, however, his two bands have undergone a gradual stylistic convergence: as with Real Estate at their best (see last year’s Atlas), the songs on this fifth album sound deceptively lightweight on the surface, but their air of carefree serenity is undercut with tugs of melancholy. The breezy Surreal Exposure is an unhurried delight, as is instrumental opener The Disney Afternoon.
On St. Catherine, Matt Mondanile officially settles into the more focused, full-band pop forms that emerged on his 2013 Ducktails release, The Flower Lane, this time with co-producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck) bringing an extra touch of warmth and clarity to the Real Estate guitarist's sophisti-psych tunes. Though still experimental in spirit -- the opening track, "The Disney Afternoon," is a dreamy band instrumental, there's an echoey gossamer wrapping the whole record, and fellow experimental indie artists James Ferraro and Julia Holter make appearances -- the songwriting is sweet and somewhat streamlined, relatively speaking.
Matt Mondanile deals in bliss. As well as playing in Real Estate, his Ducktails project goes from strength to strength, enjoying the fruits of touring with Big Troubles as a backing band and releasing a slew of records since 2006. ‘St. Catherine’ is unlikely to shock any fans - Matt turned Ducktails from a disparate sonic landscape into a sweeping, colourful indie-pop outfit a while back.
If anything has characterised the work of Matt Mondanile, who records solo as Ducktails, it has been the gradual changes rather than the sudden shifts. Some artists from bands that have solo projects have the tendency to indulge into different genres as they flit between urges they might not be quite allowed to express with their band. That’s not the case with Ducktails, in which Mondanile has slowly refined his sound rather than revolutionised it each time.
What seemed half a decade ago to be Matt Mondanile’s lo-fi, lo-stakes respite from his duty as formidably chill lead guitarist in Real Estate, Ducktails has since become Mondanile’s primary vehicle for his now decidedly un-lo-fi pop statements. St. Catherine is his latest album, and it’s also his most personal and consistent release yet, seeing Mondanile moving away from that herd of similar musicians (all rapidly aging into something or other [ah, to relive the advent of hypnagogic pop]) into a niche occupied by few.
Matt Mondanile's fifth album as Ducktails, St. Catherine, was recorded over an extended period of time around tour dates for Mondanile's day job as guitarist for Real Estate. On the final stretch of St. Catherine's recording, the Los Angeles transplant Mondanile brought in Elliott Smith co-producer Rob Schnapf, to whom the album's idyllic quality could, at least in part, be attributed—although Mondanile is no slouch in that department himself.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. As the UK basks in the hot, sticky satisfaction of a heatwave, for a few days at least, life seems to drop a down a few clicks on the speedometer. Long evenings of cold beer and barbecues may seem like the stuff of myth in a British summer, but occasionally it does actually happen. Times like these, given their rarity, deserve their own soundtrack; something that complements the laid-back lifestyle that real sun brings.
“Head banging in the mirror / Wish I could see so much clearer,” Matt Mondanile sings over crisply mechanized percussion and sun-warmed six-strings on “Headbanging,” the first single off of his fifth Ducktails album, St. Catherine. These lines are kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy for the Real Estate guitarist — he’s been refining 2009’s lo-fi raga and deeply psychedelic rock into solo material that more closely resembles the jangly, loose-limbed pop of his other outfit’s 2011 LP, Days.
Recorded in several cities as Matt Mondanile's other band Real Estate was touring in support of Atlas, St. Catherine makes one thing clear right out of the gate: You can take the boy out of the Garden State, but you can’t take the Garden State out of the boy. Mondanile has been upholding this truism for the better part of the past decade with both of his bands, nurturing a wistful, contemplative sound that, while far from the heartland rock New Jersey holds dear, will still strike a chord with anyone who has ever gone down the shore.
The refinement of Matt Mondanile’s work as Ducktails might not always be obvious. The changes he makes are slight from album to album, year to year. But he’s grown in leaps as a solo artist, and St. Catherine shows a far more delicate, subtle, polished version of his bedroom pop. He’s clearly ….
For what essentially started as a bedroom side-project, it’s a surprise that Matt Mondanile is still making use of Domino’s steady cash flow to sustain his Ducktails project. As the not-so-secret weapon behind Real Estate’s most shimmering jangly melodies, the prolific rhythm guitarist has been putting out a series of unassuming records that quickly fizzle out without much purpose or longevity. The results have been solid, though consistently tame.
In his main gig as Real Estate's guitarist, Matthew Mondanile helps provide the warm melodic hooks that drive the band's suburban bliss. Mondanile's side project, Ducktails, has typically offered him space to explore more abstract guitar moods, but his latest album refines that sprawl with more concise songwriting. A prime example is "Surreal Exposure," whose twangy guitar and lovesick tone could easily have found a home on one of Real Estate's breakthrough LPs.
Matt Mondanile (of Real Estate fame) is a very busy man. St. Catherine is the fifth record from his other band, Ducktails, and comes on the heels of Real Estate's latest, 2014's Atlas. The near-flawless Atlas would be a tough act for any side project to follow, but St. Catherine feels particularly ….
Over the course of four albums with his Ducktails solo project, Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile has gone from the muddy lo-fi of 2009’s self-titled debut to the more sophisticated indie-pop of 2013’s ‘The Flower Lane’. Produced by Rob Schnapf (co-producer of Elliott Smith’s ‘XO’), fifth album ‘St Catherine’ ups the gloss even further. ‘Headbanging In The Mirror’ comes on like a lost Prefab Sprout ’80s pop song, and the title track’s dreamy melody is in line with Real Estate’s best.
Ducktails, the vehicle for the solo songwriting of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile, have been releasing pleasingly bleary-eyed psych-pop records since 2009; in fact, Ducktails existed long before Real Estate, Mondanile having assumed the name in 2006. It may seem a little odd, then, that this is still so often seen as a side-project, and that Ducktails are almost always described as “featuring the guy from Real Estate”, rather than other way around. Maybe their new record, St Catherine, will provide a few clues as to why this seems to be the case.
Considering he’s now a poster-boy for the type of lazy, hazy music championed by the likes of Mac Demarco, you’d be forgiven for thinking Matt Mondanile is an idle and work-shy kinda guy. New album St. Catherine though, the latest LP under his Ducktails signature, is his fifth in as many years. At least when you include his work as guitarist with Jersey’s most chill indie-rock outfit, Real Estate.