When Ducktails became an unwitting posterchild for the rise of chillwave, Matt Mondanile started to bristle. The Ducktails leader —and guitarist in New Jersey janglers Real Estate— felt trapped in an eternal summer; a sonic world of washed-out waves and beach-bummer vibes.
In response, Ducktails has become something else entirely: a five-piece band (at least in their press shots) leaving behind those familiar lo-fi shores in search of stages bigger, brighter, more nocturnal, and possibly even in winter.
Though The Flower Lane —the fourth album Mondanile has released in his Ducktails guise— kicks off with "Ivy Covered House," a piece of prime, picturesque jangle whose chiming guitars, lingering melancholy, and autumnal air will be plenty familiar for those who've spent many lovelorned Days listening to Real Estate. But, thereafter, there's little so in keeping with Mondanile's past, little that sounds like either Real Estate's chiming indie-pop nor Ducktails' wonky, hazy, cruisey tunes.
Killing Them Soft(-Rocking)ly
With the members of power-pop outfit Big Troubles (another band from New Jersey) as his backing, Mondanile has made a radical change with The Flower Lane. The LP comes steeped in the slick indie of the early-'80s, operating under the influence of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, and Prefab Sprout. It's smooth, seductive, sultry, and at times funky; all adjectives that've been unused to describe Mondanile's output thus far.
There's the 2013-ish doses of synthesizers playing all manner of faux-exotic presets, and the guitars —aside from a few moments— largely eschew the classical, Marr-esque jangle of the past, instead lingering in long notes of evocative, seductive wah. Oh, and there's plenty of saxophone; enough to bring back memories of 2011: Year of the Saxophone.
Beyond the presence of Big Troubles, Mondanile opens up his once-one-man-in-his-bedroom project even moreso: Software nerds Ford & Lopatin on hand for authentic soft-rock vibes, Madeline Follin of Cults and Jessa Farkas of Future Shuttle having key guest-vocal spots. Each occupies the other half of a duet; Farkas and Big Trouble bro Ian Drennan crooning, breathily, across the languorous "Letter of Intent," Follin rousing Mondanile from his slumber in the sensual "Sedan Magic."
Those two duets are the two least-Ducktailsy moments on the record —"Letter of Intent" is a duet between two people who aren't Mondanile, after all— and, symbolically, they're also the best. And that stands symbolic of the whole endeavor. A reinvention like this could've gone badly, inspiring a backlash from fans for abandoning all that they'd come to love. Instead, the results are so good they suggest The Flower Lane could easily be a breakout record; the disc on which Mondanile's 'other' band becomes every bit as beloved, and big, as Real Estate.
Release Date: January 29, 2013