Review: Ducktails - "The Flower Lane"

Ducktails - The Flower Lane
(Domino 2013)
"Love songs to the bourgeoisie" 

 If you're familiar with the output of Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile's side project Ducktails, his latest offering, The Flower Lane, is going to throw you for a major loop. Eschewing the tape hiss and psychedelia of earlier works, Ducktails' sound has been streamlined, centering around cohesive, jangly pop songs.  

Luckily, what hasn't been lost since Arcade Dynamic is Mondanile's endearingly awkward persona and knack for songcraft. "Well, hello, it's me again," he sings in his usual detached near-mumble on the opening cut "Ivy Covered House", "I'm at your door, come let me in". The songs here don't force themselves down your throat. They merely beckon to you with their chiming guitars, lackadaisical rhythms and sunny dispositions. Rarely is the mood on The Flower Lane any less than cheerful, especially so on tracks like "Under Cover" and the rather corny cover song "Planet Phrom".

Musically, this album is Mondanile's flight from his lo-fi roots into a slick shoegazey world already occupied by buzz bands like DIIV, The Drums and Wild Nothing. Not to say that The Flower Lane stinks; it's a great  sounding album, in fact. It's just that it sounds like a carbon copy of so many other bands that have been flooding the industry recently. There are some truly original moments here, jazz-riddled tracks like "Sedan Magic" and the saxophone-saturated "Under Cover" being the outstanding outliers. "Letter of Intent" stands out as well; it's a Human League-esque track featuring Future Shuttle's Jessa Farkas on vocals and synth duo Ford and Lopatin providing a rather funky backing track. Wrapping things up is "Academy Avenue" one of Mondanile's finest love songs to the bourgeoisie, and a short reflection of his past works, bound with the awkwardly timed strumming of an acoustic guitar and laced with the usual sparkly leads. 

Although not the best selection from the Ducktails catalog, The Flower Lane is a solid release and worth a listen. Hear "Academy Avenue" below.