Ducktails - Jersey Devil

by James Gerard Rating:7 Release Date:

For fans of Real Estate’s dreamy, retro-pop, founding member Matt Mondanile’s side-project Ducktails has always represented a welcome addition to the band’s extended canon.  And so when it was announced that Mondanile was leaving the band last year (both parties have stuck to the story that Mondanile simply wanted to focus on Ducktails), fans were left to wonder what effect his departure would have on the New Jersey band’s sound.  

And while his former band barely skipped a beat, releasing the well-received In Mind just a few months later, Mondanile’s unique sense of melody and retro-guitar leanings were noticeably absent from the proceedings.  So while Ducktails soon to be released Jersey Devil is the lo-fi outfit’s sixth full-length, it might as well be the first as Mondanile is clearly out to prove that Ducktails is no longer a ‘down-time’ side-project.  

The album’s first single (and opening track) “Map to the Stars”, is a psychedelic dream-pop workout that serves as the perfect introduction to Jersey Devil, essentially summing up the album’s vibe in a three and a half-minute package.  Songs like the R&B-tinged “Light a Candle” and the synth-heavy “Keeper of the Garden” help to establish a broad, undefined sonic spectrum for Ducktails while tracks like “In the Hallways”, “Solitary Star” and the simply genius “Lover” will undoubtedly remind listeners of Mondanile’s time with Real Estate.

Jersey Devil manages to dramatically ebb and flow between up-beat electro-pop and ambient quasi-ballads while retaining a tangible sense of cohesion throughout.  The album closes out strongly, with the minimalistic pulse of “Shattered Mirror Travel” setting the stage for the euphoric “The Rising Sun”, a terrific one-two punch and a fitting conclusion to what might be the best Ducktails release yet.

Usually, when an established band loses a key member it’s ultimately the fans that lose out.  But the opposite can also be true as well.  In the case of Real Estate and Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails (a project that actually predates his time with his former band), fans should rejoice as both parties seem better off for the split.  Jersey Devil is a return to Mondanile’s lo-fi, bedroom roots and works on all fronts, reinforcing the idea that a record this good simply couldn’t have been made ‘on the side’.

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