January 16, 2011

Album Review: Ducktails' Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics


When 49 out of the 50 United States are said to have snow somewhere on the ground, the return of warmer temperatures and sunshine may be difficult for some to fathom. For Matthew Mondanile however, summertime always seems to be on his mind. Mondanile works double duty as the guitarist for beach pop outfit Real Estate, and has consistently released more psychedelic, experimental solo efforts under the moniker Ducktails. Considering Real Estate and Mondanile are rooted in New Jersey (and now call New York City home,) it's quite peculiar that a group of guys annually subjected to the harsh elements of a northeast winter could be so in tune with a climate that doesn't stick around too long when it visits. Maybe it's wishful thinking on their part because the latest release from Ducktails, Ducktails III: Arcade Dyanamics, sees Mondanile's summertime daydreams becoming increasingly more vivid.

There's also a lot less cassette quality recording grime to conceal Ducktails' sound this time around, which in turn lets more sun in than it ever has for the lo-fi guitarist. Album opener "In the Swing," the subsequent "Hamilton Road" and tail-end tracks "Don't Make Plans" and "Art Vandelay" could easily double as Real Estate cuts due to the strummy Tropic├ília pop guitar sound breezing through easing melodies. The latter three feature Mondanile singing lazily to compliment the laid back tone of what has become Ducktails' signature sound. Up until this release, it has been a rarity for Mondanile to let his voice step out from the hazy, chillwave production with such clarity. In fact, nearly all Ducktails' releases have been instrumental, making this a huge growth spurt for Mondanile as a songwriter. It's not the only time on Arcade Dynamics he takes the mic, either. "Sunset Liner (for E. Young)" and  "Killin' the Vibe" pleasantly churn slower than their neighboring tracks with vocal layers distributed much further apart. The effect creates a style reminiscent to Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective (Coincidentally, Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox will be providing alternate vocals for the latter track on the iTunes and vinyl releases of Arcade Dynamics.)

Matthew Mondanile's work as Ducktails and the guitarist of Real Estate have always claimed their own identities, but it's becoming more apparent with each Ducktails release that the two projects creatively feed off one another. Ducktails III: Arcade Dyanamics finds Mondanile creating his most cohesive collection of pop songs as a solo artist to date by channeling the seemingly unobtainable idea of an endless summer. Even though there's two feet of snow piled across the northeast, his idea doesn't sound too far fetched once the album comes to a close.


Ducktails' Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics will be released January 18th, 2011 on Woodsist Records.

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