A work of insidious beauty: creeping, pervasive and better for it.
Jude Clarke 2013-01-17
Originally the solo outlet of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, Ducktails has, over time, become less of a bedroom project and more a collaborative venture. Mondanile’s drafted in a whole band, Big Troubles, to back him on this fourth album.
And The Flower Lane sounds like an album that its contributors had a good time making. Its pace is predominantly gentle, its music full, sunny and generally unabrasive.
Opener Ivy Covered House brings a softly nostalgic feel and a warm jangle, also found in International Date Line and Academy Avenue. Guitars are slightly more animated in the occasional middle eight or solo (Timothy Shy, Assistant Director), but never put their heads so far over the parapet as to dominate.
The sense of harking back is emphasised in the smooth 80s echoes of the production and generous use of slick synths and piano; International Date Line’s mellow blend of instrumentation and suggestion of a 60s-style sitar, and the glossy sax break on Under Cover add to the retrospective mood. That song’s couplet – “Imagine all the people / Walkin’ out the door” – could perhaps be a sly backward reference to Lennon’s best-known moment of the 70s.
Elsewhere, lyrics mainly keep to the slightly goofy, love-struck likes of The Flower Lane’s “So now she’s gone again / And I feel a mess” or Assistant Director’s “I can’t think of anything now / Looking into your eyes”.
Lovely cover version Planet Phrom (originally by Peter Gutteridge, of The Clean and The Chills) again highlights Mondanile’s thrall to romance, while Under Cover gets seductive, in an subtle, slightly-cheesy way befitting the band.
Mondanile’s singing is underplayed and undemonstrative throughout. Its qualities fit, yet are thrown into relief by the contribution of Cults’ Madeline Follin, her lush vocal elevating Sedan Magic to a highlight as she wistfully pleads, “Won’t you stay?”
Right to its end, in the calm flurry of acoustic guitar notes that form the coda to closing track Academy Avenue, this album sees Mondanile opting for subtlety over showmanship. In choosing to do so he has created a work of insidious beauty: creeping, pervasive and better for it.