Music Review: Ducktails’ “The Flower Lane”

Ducktails is the side project of Matt Mondanile, the guitarist from much-beloved indie rock band Real Estate. With Real Estate, Mondanile makes jangly, guitar-driven pop music. Under the Ducktails moniker, Mondanile makes loopy, guitar-driven pop music. The whole thing can seem a little homogeneous without close consideration–Real Estate, two excellent albums now under their belt notwithstanding, could accurately be described as “derivative,” and Ducktails even moreso. So what is the imperative to listen to The Flower Lane, the newest release from Mondanile to feature a lazily designed album cover and some arbitrarily chosen track titles (“Sedan Magic,” “Assistant Director”)?

Well…not much, if loopy, guitar-driven pop music doesn’t appeal to you. In a way, there is nothing more than meets the eye when it comes to this album: you’re getting ten tightly-written tracks of guitar-heavy jangle pop, although Mondanile dares to sprinkle in some synthesizer and–wait for it–saxophone on tracks like “Under Cover”. This is a modest release and one that’s well aware of its status as such; Ducktails is not a project aiming to transcend labels or avoid excessive pigeonholing.

So this means, somewhat refreshingly, that The Flower Lane is an album that can be enjoyed thoroughly for what it is and not what it wants to or purports to be. From the beginning, the album is immensely pleasing: opener “Ivy Covered House” picks up where Real Estate’s most recent album, Days, left off, Mondanile limning his always gorgeous guitar tone with an unexpectedly strong vocal melody. The guy is just a jealousy-inducingly good songwriter and producer, knowing exactly when to throw in a dissonant bass note or turn up the phaser on his amp. The result is nearly intoxicating in its consistent quality–even if you can easily point to its stylistic ancestors (among others, I hear traces of The Byrds and The Smiths).

“Under Cover,” sounding a lot like an outtake from Destroyer’s ‘80s-tastic album Kaputt, is the centerpiece, showing off Mondanile’s skills not only in constructing an all-out jam (the song is over six minutes long but feels more like two) but also, crucially, his guitar playing. For all the praise the project’s writing deserves, perhaps the biggest pull of Ducktails and thus of The Flower Lane is the subtly effective guitar on display. Listening to the track, I am reminded of the spaces between a great guitar solo rather than the solo itself. It’s a scintillating approach to the instrument, and indicative of the album’s qualities as a whole: a little lazy-sounding, yes, but with finesse at every nook and cranny if one looks hard enough.

–Alex Robertson, Editor-in-Chief

Posted by on February 14, 2013. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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