Ducktails - The Flower Lane - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ducktails - The Flower Lane

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8 Release Date:2013-01-28

Ducktails, the solo project of Real Estate's Matt Mondanile, has been active since 2010. From it's beginnings as a collection of lo-fi, surf-tinged instrumentals on Landscapes, through his lush, looping collaboration with Panda Bear, 'Killing the Vibe', the one constant to his narrative has been a warm summery haze seeping through the music. Ducktails inhabits a similar space to bands such as Yo La Tengo in his ability to fuse the aesthetic and ideals of college and alternative rock with a broad palette of influences and, particularly on this latest effort, to create sweet, sun-kissed pop music.

Ducktail's progression into increasingly pop song territory has not been at the expense of the focus on rich textures shown on his debut. Every listen to the album seems to reveal a new texture through the reverby murk. Opening track 'Ivy Covered House' is a languid groove sounding like it could be from some lost 60's pop band. The song is built on intricate layers of guitar arpeggios and melodies, with gentle 'ooohs' underpinning the vocals. Throughout the album are warm syrupy bass lines, smooth Motown organ sounds and occasional blasts of gnarly, noisey guitar solos like the break down on 'Timothy Shy'.

The biggest strength in Mondanile's songwriting on this album is his ability to use tried and tested song forms to convey new meanings. 'Under the Covers' might superficially seem quite disposable; a funky bassline with choppy guitars and stabs of saxophone. The song alternates through a looping vocal and blasts of guitar and synth solos, with the repeating line, "Do you want to go under the covers" mixing with the funky arrangement to seem like a steamy musical chat-up line.

However, this is countered with the other repeated vocal: "When you're alone, what do the streetlights say to your eyes?" This, combined with Mondanile's morose, geeky delivery highlights a different meaning. The song loses its sleaze and instead comes across as a plea for escapism. Similarly, the title track is built on wah-wah organ arpeggios and guitar lines, sounding like an 80s power ballad. But lines such as, "A million pretty faces and no one to care for" show Mondanile's ability to generate a new emotional resonance within the almost cheesy musical framework.

The desire for escape which flows through this album is most explicitly shown on 'Planet Throm'. Built on a looping, two-chord guitar arpeggio, it returns to the surf rock inclinations of Ducktail's previous work. On its own it's a very pleasant three-minute pop song with slightly surrealist lyrical content. Placed into context with the rest of the album, however, it seems to be about the dreamworld Mondanile wants to escape too: "Making love with my alien wife". The song, like the rest of the album, doesn't take itself too seriously - by no means is this a sombre or sad record. Yet underneath the warm summery arrangements there is something a little sad, which gives the album a depth beyond it's superficially sun-kissed pop façade.

Unfortunately, some of the tracks fall too far into the 'disposable pop' bracket. Several of the tracks are quite forgettable, and have nothing in them to bring you back. It's almost as if Mondaile has taken too much from the short-term nature of some of his more 'pop' influences. Ducktails is often lumped in with the chillwave movement that appeared a few years ago, and while musically his albums do have parallels with the paths trod by the likes of the Memory Tapes and Toro Y Moi, his unique voice as a songwriter gives his music, at its best, a resonance and longevity beyond their lush production techniques and arrangements.

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