When Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile began making music for his side project Ducktails, it was immediately clear that the music was much more personal than anything he contributed in the past. For better or for worse, he was free to chase down whatever ideas he pleased. At times, the results were extremely rewarding. The second LP from the band, Arcade Dynamics seemed to be an attempt at consistency. To its credit, it mostly succeeded at that goal. People began to take notice of the effort and started taking Ducktails more seriously as a viable band in their own right. With the new album The Flower Lane Mondanile further refines his sound and palate.
Ducktails have been criticized in the past for the somewhat unfinished quality of their previous music. When engaging in those recordings, they give an impression similar to that of reading a private diary. The songs took the form of raw thoughts that do not belong in the public domain. However, The Flower Lane gives off an opposing impression. It's warm and inviting. From the very first moment you push play, it's immediately evident that this album was precisely built and crafted with cohesiveness in mind.
The opening and title tracks both respectively introduce the presence of crisp drums and guitar chorus/delay effects. These musical elements remain constant throughout the duration of the album. With these fixtures firmly in place, Ducktails proceed to get more ambitious with their instrumentation as the record progresses. "Under Cover" offers the first glimpse into this new found maturity. It features an extremely jazzy riff that is accentuated by a really nice saxophone solo that makes itself right at home on the track. A funky bass line takes over "Assistant Director," a song that actually finds Mondanile shredding a little bit before some bongos join in for a little interlude. The only song here that seriously rivals "Under Cover" for the title of best track on the album, "Letter of Intent" serves as a gorgeous synth-pop experiment. It's surprising that a song such as this can make so much sense given the material proceeding it, but it works because it's jam-packed with signature sounds.
When Mondanile sounds hungry, The Flower Lane marches forward with fiery grit and determination. It's nice to hear the band pushing themselves every now and then. Thankfully, that sense of urgency avoids becoming a dominant element. During its most crucial moments, the album acknowledges the desire to stop and smell the roses. For those who are already familiar with lead singer/guitar player Matthew Mondanile, listening will be instantly rewarding because of the obvious progression in terms of songwriting and diversity. Mondanile not only expands upon sounds that he has previously experimented with, but he also finds entirely new contexts for them to exist, resulting in the most complete record Ducktails have ever made.