MATT MONDANILE may be best known for the sprawling indie-rock edifice of his group Real Estate, where he's manned the guitar since the band's inception in 2008. That band's ascension from Ridgewood, New Jersey, anomaly to nationally renowned tastemaker casts a shadow over Mondanile's more immediate and longer-running project, Ducktails.
That may be changing soon.
Ducktails began as a solo endeavor for Mondanile, which he recorded mostly alone, releasing a flurry of output beginning in 2006. Early recordings were largely bizarre, krautrock-influenced sound collages drawing from pop, but remained decidedly abstract until later releases saw Ducktails' more traditional underpinnings floating to the surface.
On Ducktails' new album, The Flower Lane, however, Mondanile allows his insular songwriting regimen to stretch beyond these confines. He's assembled a special guest list of collaborators, including Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Joel Ford (Ford & Lopatin), Madeline Follin (Cults), Sam Mehran (Outer Limitz) and Jessa Farkas (Future Shuttle)—along with Real Estate and members of Big Troubles, who serve as the Ducktails' live band. With these partners in crime, Mondanile incorporates the most fully realized version of his pop-oriented songwriting to date.
The Flower Lane trips and stutters over a wide spectrum of groovy, laidback rock that sounds like a playlist from a swinging loft party one minute ("The Flower Lane"), a psychedelic alien sex romp the next ("Planet Phrom"), and a jumpy, baleful love letter to an unaware pedestrian ("Timothy Shy"). These romantic, View-Master-like flashes play a big role in The Flower Lane both musically and lyrically; Mondanile's grand vision of a tourist's perspective of the Big Apple makes the song-to-song stylization of various rivulets of pop-rock seem like one big, lonely sociology experiment. Moments of less lushly textured compositions peek through, too: "Academy Avenue" is a sparse acoustic-guitar folker, replete with interweaving melodies lazily sung over a tambourine beat.
Mondanile's relocation to New York in recent years has driven The Flower Lane's psych-pop account of the big city's melting pot onto intriguing musical terrain. It's no small feat, considering the tens of thousands of love letters addressed to, and from, New Yorkers.