Ducktails-The Flower Lane
As ‘Ivy Covered House’ -opening track on Ducktails The Flower Lane- starts up you think you’re hearing a b-side from Real Estate’s Days. Shimmering guitars, clean, nuanced vocals, and an overall stoned ambivalence pervades this lazy and breezy track. You wonder how a band could get away with lifting so openly from another band, then you remember this is Matt Mondanile. Mondanile is the same guy making all those shimmery and jangly guitar noises on Real Estate records, so the similarities make perfect sense. After ‘Ivy Covered House’ ends and the title track begins all bets are off. There’s still that shimmery guitar thing happening, yet there’s a darker vibe. Electric pianos and keys play heavily on this song, giving it a 70s vibe, like a cross between Atlanta Rhythm Section and Nick Drake. Think about that for a bit. ‘Under Cover’ is a sexy and funky jam that should’ve been playing at some high school dance in Hackensack, New Jersey back in 1978. All hot pants and awkward dance moves. Matt Mondanile has gone for a bigger, tighter, and more inviting sound on his fourth full-length record as Ducktails.
The Flower Lane lies heavily in that 70s AM vibe. I hate using a term like ‘soft rock’, it sounds so emasculating. So I’ll use a different term. Something like hazy pop, or corduroy rock. I don’t know. Ducktails brings up the image of kids riding their banana-seated Schwinn bikes wearing their Osh Kosh corduroy jeans down to the corner store and emptying their pockets of quarters playing Pac-Man, Tron, and Donkey Kong. Then with what money they have left they grab a couple Mountain Dews and some Ring Pops and head back home in time to watch Transformers(the cartoon, not the movie). It’s a retro sound kids of the 80s can relate to. And depending on what your memories of that time were will be the deciding factor on whether you groove awkwardly in your living room to it or hit the “meh” button on your hipster meter.
For this child of the 80s The Flower Lane hits all the right retro notes. Matt Mondanile takes the right amount of Real Estate breezy melancholy and mixes it with some Alan Parsons Project moodiness, musty electric keys, and a chill-in-the-beanbag kind of bleary-eyed, care-free panache. ‘Assistant Director’, ‘Sedan Magic’, and ‘International Date Line’ all move along quite nicely and lead up to ‘Letter of Intent’, a bit of slow jam. At first it comes in sounding like early 80s Cars, then as the low end comes in it comes off like Gayngs-meets-Tom Tom Club. ‘Academy Avenue’ ends the album with a drunken acoustic strum and delayed guitar. It’s a bloodshot farewell.
Matt Mondanile shows us that he’s got more to offer than a crisp, jangly guitar sound. He’s a hell of a songwriter and maker of moods. And on The Flower Lane he’s given us an album for summertime, backyard barbeques, and far off glances into the horizon long after the party has ended.