Ducktails – The Flower Lane (Domino)

Sprouting off from indie-rock heroes Real Estate, guitarist Matthew Mondanile is set to release his new Ducktails record, The Flower Lane – the first of the side project to be on Domino. Though Ducktails was originally a 'lone wolf' type scenario for Mondanile, allowing him to tinker around and fiddle with his own trains of thought, he's now recruited a heap of his best buds to lend a hand, with Madeline Follin of Cults, Real Estate's Martin Courtney and many more sticking their musical fingers into the Ducktails pie. His experimental lo-fi has been compared to Toro Y Moi and Washed Out, with the haze-addled guitars fuzzily wailing with apathy, and reverb taking control of the music. While not quite having the same gothy-schtick as Robert Smith, it's almost like Ducktails is New Jerseys answer to The Cure, as the synths/jangly guitars exude '80s and lean more towards the morbid than the cheery.

Released Jan 31st, 2013 via Domino / By Larry Day
Ducktails – The Flower Lane (Domino) 'Timothy Shy' pounds away at funk keys and sleazy elevator-style noises, while carrying a shimmering sinister sound with muted guitars and a shuffling beat. The psychadelic echoes pour through the music during the chorus, swallowing the vocals whole and regurgitating them in some incomprehensible way. 'Sedan Magic' is liberally dusted with wah-wah and spacey 'oohs', and while it sounds a bit like the music for a '90s waiting room, there's a Twin Peaks weirdness – everything seems normal, but something's not quite right. The random digressions into female-led vocals, UFO swirl synths and dissonant keys all provide jolts of intrigue, and ensure that the track isn't just sitcom background music.

The music made here does bear similarities to a number of high(ish) profile acts around at the moment – Neon Indian, Memory Tapes and Ariel Pink to name a few. Where Mondaline & co.stand out is in the synth work. The guitars are the cookie-cutter weakly strummed acoustica so prevalent in slacker-rock, but the horrendously/gloriously aged synths set the tracks apart from the herd. Sometimes recalling the Saturday Night Fever of the '70s, sometimes oozing melodic '80s cheese, the synthesizers add a great deal to the timbre of the record, and can mean the different between brilliance and blandness.

'International Date Line' edges in with a distorted panning of 808s, endlessly circling the faraway sounds of tranquil, dazed guitars and laborious effects that come burning through brightly. Things change ever so subtly to great eventual effect, and though it's an instrumental cut, there's a firm calming power in the music. 'Letter Of Intent' ticks away, with sultry keys and beeps like Royksopp's 'Eple'. Jessa Farkas of Future Shuttle fame takes the helm vocally, allowing a sublime fragility to bleed through, a fragility that seems real and honest in a sea of bedroom production. Ian Drennan of Big Troubles also lends his tender pipes to the track, conversing with Farkas as she steals the show.

The Flower Lane isn't a record that necessarily grabs you by the lapels and demands you stick your ear as close as you can to listen, but one than softly creeps right up to you and whispers. It could take a few listens to be fully appreciated, but then glo-fi/chillwave/whatever it's called now always does – the relentless nostalgic harping can take time to break down. When you do finally break through that barrier though, it's a deeply rewarding 4th LP from Ducktails that crawls out from its shell, and it's an LP that is home to genuine emotion and a downbeat optimism. It blushes with charm.