“Headbanging in the Mirror” isn’t the forecasted opening lyric from the guitarist for the pleasantly breezy pop moguls Real Estate. Ducktails guitarist Matt Mondanile has matured past juvenile discontent. The lo-fi wisp of Mondanile’s previous work was his method of dissent, both from Real Estate and its domesticated nature. On St. Catherine, Mondanile dutifully marches through suburbia in an attempt to escape, while helplessly exposing his origin like a closeted South Carolinian in Oregon.
With uncharacteristic boisterousness, various intros begin with a tranquilized drum fill that’s promptly euthanized by Mondanile’s signature jangled guitar. On paper, the spectral synths floating throughout The Laughing Woman and Krumme Lanke indicate that Mondanile left his comfort zone. However, featured producer and pioneer of the edgy “vaporwave” sub-genre and master of discomfort James Ferraro caresses Mondanile’s breezy sensibilities with astral qualities that feel grounded in the same New Jersey suburbia that Mondanile frequently alludes to.
While Mondanile’s modest acts of rebellion narrowly shine through the blanket of domesticity draping his work, his less overt departures are the most monumental. Beginning on Surreal Exposure, the talented string musician departs from central guitar melodies and opts for driving vocal melodies. The most memorable moments on St. Catherine are the organic melodies in the album’s second half. Soft harmonies in Church feel inevitable in their simplicity.
As a creative endeavor, St. Catherine is Ducktails’ most successful album. From the Von Maur piano present in the “Disney Afternoon” reminding us of Mondanile’s roots to the engrossing synthesized drift of “Krumme Lanke’s” ambience, it’s clear that Ducktails isn’t a blatant attempt to transcend Real Estate or domesticated dogma. It’s a distinguished melodic pop album that’s irresistible in its eugenic roots, but ambitious in its masterful departures.
Recommended If You Like: Real Estate, Wild Nothing, Summer Fiction
Recommended Tracks: Track 02 (Headbanging In The Mirror), Track 08 (Surreal Exposure), Track 09 (Church), Track 06 (The Laughing Woman)