Release Date: Jan 29, 2013
Record label: Domino
Beginning as a meandering bedroom project, Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile's solo work as Ducktails existed first as a contrast to his band's more traditional restrained guitar pop. Early cassette releases saw Mondanile dousing noodly guitar lines with phaser and experimenting with raw electronics and stony, repetitious patterns, predating the chillwave phenomena and always riding a few feet above the red-eyed output of similarly minded chillers. By the time the third proper album Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics showed up in early 2011, even a Panda Bear cameo didn't suggest any changes to the lo-fi aesthetic and homespun vibes that had been in play all along.
The Duckman cometh yet again and this time he’s got ancillary waterfowl for days. Behind us is Real Estate member Matt Mondanile’s solo project, Ducktails, and rippling across the pond is Mondanile’s other band, also Ducktails. Now flanked by four supporting members—including the dudes from Big Troubles—The Flower Lane provides width for Mondanile to freely explore bluesier, spacier frontiers, and the fresh air to achieve a cohesive clarity that builds on the successful points of his previous efforts.
Until recently, Matthew Mondanile seemed to regard Ducktails as the lackadaisical counterpart to his other, better known band, Real Estate. The first two Ducktails LPs were cozy, blithely executed indie rock comfort food that occasionally coalesced into semi-structured songs. With 2011's Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics, Mondanile tightened up and offered a tuneful (but still slight) precursor to the sublime guitar pop of Real Estate's Days.
You could say Matthew Mondanile's idea of a "solo" project has become a little skewed. The Real Estate guitarist's fourth outing as Ducktails includes support from New Jersey outfit Big Troubles and contributions from Cults, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Outer Limitz (to name a few). But rather than dilute Mondanile's woozy psych-pop aesthetic, this congestion of ideas brings fresh focus to his lo-fi craft.
Ducktails, the side project of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile, is beginning to gain momentum. Three albums on from 2009’s self-titled and enjoyable psychedelic lo-fi debut, Ducktails is now on Domino – also Real Estate’s label – and seems to be a more collaborative effort, with Mondanile calling upon fellow musicians such as Cults’ singer Madeline Follin and New Jersey indie-poppers Big Troubles as his backing band for this fourth instalment, The Flower Lane. The result of these collaborations – and the shift from solo home-recording to the breadth of the studio – is a sprawling salute to the poppier end of (to use an Americanism) college and alternative rock from the 1980s and ’90s, and something far removed from Ducktails’ previous output bursting with analogue synths, Casio-sounding beats and excess reverb.
Like his contemporaries Ernest Greene and Chazwick Bundick (better known as Washed Out and Toro Y Moi), Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile is obsessed with the power of archetypal adolescent memories, stringing out his ideas like hazy, yellowing photographs depicting Little League practice, family picnics, and familiar neighborhood haunts. Indeed, his work as Ducktails is everything the name implies: a reverent obsession with capturing the various childhood zeitgeists of today’s thirtysomethings, be they Saturday-morning cartoons or marshmallow-filled breakfast cereal. The world he depicts, couched in the preteen mind, is a magical yet harrowing place, with everyday locations and scenes—the backseat of the family sedan, a neighbor’s basement, the avenue across the way—taking on larger and more meaningful roles than they would in the sober world of adults.
Much like the UK’s own Weird Dreams, Real Estate member Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails project treads a fine vibrating line between psych-pop homage and plain ol’ pastiche. Simple, direct lyrics delivered through nursery rhyme melodies rub up against brilliantly complex instrumentation and purposely convoluted structure on The Flower Lane, Mondanile’s fourth full-length and his first major step out of the bedroom and into the wider world of studio collaboration. The moments where he nods to Johnny Marr’s beauteous sound are among the finest here; on opener ‘Ivy Covered House’ with its mid-period Smiths chime and Flying Nun feel; or with the Big Star harmonies and squelching organ of the title track which tosses out sucked-air reverse snare and girlgroup bv’s in the second half to whip up a pretty special confection.
When Matthew Mondanile isn't playing guitar for indie rockers Real Estate, he's fronting Ducktails, an equally breezy project smeared in all the sweetly nostalgic sonics for which his other band is known. Ducktails' 2009 first album was like an instrumental outtake version of Real Estate's debut, which also came out that year. Both relied on a lo-fi filter that made us think of lazy summers smoking weed and eating pizza, with Mondanile's sunny guitar riffs at the centre.
Roughly five years ago, when no one was looking, indie artists began sticking their hands into the deep corduroy pockets of jam bands. Americana was the first to go, then electronica, then ambient rock. Each was strategically passed through a lo-fi filter, hidden behind coy mustaches and, eventually, pumped into Urban Outfitters at a steep markup. Through it all, the lo-fi aesthetic surrounding every pilfered subgenre served as a metaphorical line in the sand.
As Matt Mondanile's Ducktails project becomes less a side-project and more a second full-time gig, it gets less exciting. That sounds harsh, but I don't necessarily mean that his music is bad, just that it's, well, fairly standard; there's nothing that makes The Flower Lane stand out amongst albums by similarly hazy, reverb-heavy guitar pop bands like Wild Nothing, DIIV, and, yes, Mondanile's own primary band, Real Estate. "Timothy Shy" and "Planet Phrom" are nice enough ditties, but unfortunately, it is the guests who provide the highlights here.
There's always one big peril to the "solo project", essayed here by Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile. If the songs were that good, why wouldn't you take them to your main band? The obverse of that, though, is that you get albums that skip unconcernedly across genres, refreshingly free of the need to meet expectations. The fourth album under the Ducktails name is more of a band effort than heretofore, but that hasn't restrained Mondanile, who seems to have wanted to divide The Flower Line between gentle psychedelic pop (as on Ivy Coloured House and Planet Phom, which bears the imprint of New Zealand's Flying Nun label) and wine-bar funk-pop (Under Cover sounds uncannily like Orange Juice when Edwyn Collins was trying his best to be conventional).
Ducktails was born out of the DIY Massachusetts cassette-trading scene back in 2006, during Matthew Mondanile’s senior year in college. Those recordings – better described as bedroom noodlings – were scarcely distributed and genuinely sound like they were pieced together with garage sale electronics and made for 10 of his friends. Four albums later, this dingy dorm room side-venture has blossomed into a full band effort.
Review Summary: Real Estate, the readers digest condensed versionUnexpectedly, The Flower Lane is more of a step into familiar territory for Matt Mondanile. And unfortunately, one can't help but escape the unabashed Real Estate imitation that bursts through the seams of his fourth proper release under the Ducktails moniker. Gone are the lo-fi, experimental psychedelic pop jams of previous efforts, and in their place are ten tracks that could quite easily be confused as the rejected B-side "Nights" to 2011's Days.
DucktailsThe Flower Lane[Domino; 2013]By Josh Becker; January 31, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWoozy guitar lines, simple pop structures, ambiguously nostalgic vocals--must be a new Real Estate album! Oh, wait, it's not; it's just the new release from Ducktails, side project of Real Estate's guitarist Matt Mondanile. Forgive my confusion. See, The Flower Lane tries its best to sound like a Real Estate album, which seems counterintuitive because, like, if I wanted to listen to a Real Estate record, I'd throw on their self-titled one or the excellent Days.
The transition from rudimentary bedroom project to full-blown artiste-in-a-studio endeavor is a challenge that many an upwardly mobile lo-fi auteur has had to come to terms with. As much as one person playing every instrument onto a four-track tape machine or laptop can be a matter of financial and situational practicality, it’s also as often an aesthetic decision. The thin, hazy mist commonly associated with cheapo recording can obscure and muddle sounds in attractive ways given the proper circumstances, and for denizens of indiedom it can add instant character to even the most amateurish creation.
It’s a touch unfortunate for New Jersey musician Matthew Mondanile that his latest album as Ducktails arrives almost exactly a year after ‘Days’, the last record his other band, Real Estate, put out. ‘The Flower Lane’ sounds a lot like it, but is nowhere near as good. He can be a compelling guitarist, and the Byrds-y/Marr-y squiggles on ‘Ivy Covered House’ deliver a Shins-esque guitar wash.
“Over-Hyped” is probably the most suitable phrase for everything associated with the band Real Estate. That goes double for Matt Mondanile’s latest album as Ducktails. Honestly kiddies, I really don’t get what the fuss is about, but so goes the story with everything surrounding the “cool kid” music bubbling out of today’s indie scene. Ducktails, Real Estate, Alex Bleeker And The Freaks, and whatever other side-projects and superfluous endeavors I’ve seemed to have missed out on are all part of the same brand of vacuous, bland, hipster-chic bullshit.
A work of insidious beauty: creeping, pervasive and better for it. Jude Clarke 2013 Originally the solo outlet of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, Ducktails has, over time, become less of a bedroom project and more a collaborative venture. Mondanile’s drafted in a whole band, Big Troubles, to back him on this fourth album. And The Flower Lane sounds like an album that its contributors had a good time making.
There comes a time in the evolution of any worthwhile guitar-pop group when a conscious decision is made to abandon the charmingly lax approach to songwriting and recording that most young bands adopt and instead develop a unique, concrete artistic personality. It’s what many critics refer to as an artist’s “voice,” and on evidence of The Flower Lane, Matt Mondanile has finally found his. As frontman for New Jersey janglers Ducktails, Mondanile has spent roughly a half-decade wafting through hazy, heavy-lidded, narcoticized pop, only singular in as much as he recorded and played most of it on his own between time with other gigs.
Amidst a wide array of cassettes, CD-R and 7” releases, Matthew Mondanile’s fourth proper album as Ducktails is very different from his early bedroom recordings. On The Flower Lane, the Real Estate guitarist’s side project offers bright and mellow pop fitted with echoed vocals and a guitar-centric foundation. The album builds on steps taken on Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics toward a fuller sound, with Mondanile welcoming collaborators this time, including members of Real Estate and power-pop tourmates Big Troubles.
The prospect of a solo project always brings with it some question towards its relation to the original band. In the case of Matthew Mondanile, the guitarist of Real Estate and leader of Ducktails, the two have, until now, remained neatly tucked in different niches of Mondanile’s musical ambition. While Real Estate strove for its brand of understated guitar pop, Mondanile used Ducktails to experiment with synthetic-based atmospheres.
For a while now, the music of New Jersey's Matt Mondanile, recording under the Ducktails alias, has been moving away from the freeform guitar and synth jams and embryonic sketches of his early cassette releases, towards the more conventional song structures of his other band, Real Estate. Fittingly The Flower Lane, Mondanile's fourth album as Ducktails and first for Domino, finds him emerging as a proper songwriter in his own right. No longer a solo venture, The Flower Lane features contributions from 1990s indie revivalists Big Troubles (who also serve as his backing band live), Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never, Joel Ford (Ford & Lopatin), Jessa Farkas of Future Shuttle and Madeline Follin of Cults, with the whole shebang produced by Al Carlson (Peaking Lights, Yeasayer).