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The Flower Lane

Ducktails: The Flower Lane

  • Ducktails
  • Alternative & Indie
  • Out now
  • Domino
  • Everywhere
reviewed by
Steven Viney
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Ducktails: The Flower Lane

What started off as
Real Estate’s lead guitarist Matt Mondanile’s solo, home recorded, lo-fi jams –
unambitiously marketed under the moniker ‘Ducktails’ through various labels –
has now evolved into the first studio-produced effort on third album, The Flower Lane.

Listening to Ducktails’ first two albums,
Mondanile’s lead guitar prowess – and odd song-writing/lead guitar
contributions to Real Estate – has always been one of both projects’ selling
points. However, perhaps due to the success of Real Estate’s sophomore album Days, Mondanile has also decided to up
the ante and turn his solo project – which was already beautiful in itself –
into a full band effort. Though this basically means employing the help of
local friends to “vibe up” the feel of the recordings a little as Mondanile
remains the sole songwriter.

Fans of the first two
Ducktails albums, who relished in Mondanile’s carefree, fuzzed out production –
clearly portrayed on sophomore album Arcade
Dynamics
with songs like ‘Hamilton Road’ and ‘Art Vandelay’ – might be
initially put off by the production style of The Flower Lane. The fuzziness, looseness and jangly guitar leads
have largely been exchanged for more keyboard-heavy, tightly-structured tunes and
in result, the general mood of the sound has naturally been morphed in the
process.

Whereas Mondanile’s
previous work sounded like a group of youths cruising around American suburbs
and beaches in the summertime, The Flower
Lane
sounds like the same youths, slightly matured, driving home in the
rain singing to 70s/80s radio.

It’s slightly sadder,
and different, but given sometime, a new beauty begins to emerge that displays
the breadth of Mondanile’s skills as an artist; the beauty of introspection,
acceptance and contentedness with an aimless life in the – now rainy – suburbs.

Though the lyrics often
don’t stand out, it appears Mondanile – who has generally been quite private
with his personal life – has swapped his existential meanderings about
post-college existence into more concrete ‘love’ songs; but despite the
break-up feel they portray, the tracks are never mopey or self-indulgent.

The album starts with ‘The Ivy Covered House’ – perhaps the song that sounds the nearest to
his previous work – which sees Mondanile immediately declare “Well hello, it’s
me again/I’m at your door, come let me in.”

Then on the following, title
track, ‘The Flower Lane’, Mondanile adds “So now she’s gone, and I feel a mess/Leave the world outside, to stay inside my head/A million pretty faces, with
no one to care for, the flower lane.” But the beautiful keyboard lines,
lackluster drums and optimistic guitar riffs give the song a lovely, subdued
celebratory feel. This is then followed by third song, ‘Under Cover’, to the
accompaniment of a beautiful jangly jam; Mondanile repeatedly asks, “Under. Do
you want to go under? The covers at night.”

Opening the album with
such sentiments, delivered with attractive songwriting and sturdy
melodies, highlights that Mondanile is vibing on a different wavelength, and a
beautiful one at that.

These songs set the
tone for the rest of the album. However, at times on certain tracks like ‘Assistant
Director’ and ‘Timothy Shy’, Mondanile has attempted to infuse a little bit of
upbeat funk into his tracklist. Second single, ‘Letter of Intent’, also shows
Mondanile sharing vocal duties for the first time with singer, Jessica
Farkas.

In isolation, such
tracks would be a little off-putting, but given the overall strength of The Flower Lane, they only help to
exhibit Mondanile’s ability to remain structurally loose, experimental and
open-minded, which immediately creates curiosity about what is to come next
from this beautifully and patiently flourishing project.

However, it should be
noted, that the only drawback to The
Flower Lane
that keeps it from being a four-star album is that it seems to
lack a strong number of standout singles, and instead floats through like a
hazy dream. Whilst this does have its charm, it won’t do Ducktails much justice
when shooting to broaden out their sound to a wider audience, which is what
Mondanile seems to be aiming for.

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Real Estate, Alex Bleeker & The Freaks, Todd Rundgren

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