As the guitarist for New Jersey based band Real Estate, Matt Mondanile has shown his particular set of skills in the vast, shimmering realm of nostalgia driven indie music. At first glance, Real Estate and Monadile’s solo band Ducktails seem similar in nature, but in his fifth album St. Catherine, it’s clear that this is absolutely not the case. As the follow up to 2013’s The Flower Lane, St. Catherine further explores the tortuous feelings of yearning and absolute desire, all wrapped up in a warm, comforting package.
While Real Estate houses a more uniform, organized sound evocative of maturity, Ducktails proves to be more flexible and emotional. Perhaps this is because Mondanile is an emotional person himself, and what couldn’t be expressed in his more professional ensemble is on full display in St. Catherine. First being a Real Estate fan, I first heard of Ducktails’ beautiful, nostalgic sounds back in when The Flower Lane was released. It’s standout tracks “Letter Of Intent” and “Assistant Director” opened my ears more towards this style of guitar-based indie pop that bands like Toro y Moi and Wild Nothing have worked so hard to achieve. St. Catherine evokes the same sort of feelings as its predecessors, although more relaxed and inhibited in nature. Opener “The Disney Afternoon” is a hazy, woozy instrumental track that’s dripping in synth alterations and lo-fi sound. Although it is glorious in and of itself, it sort of starts the album off on a shaky note that makes the listener lose their footing. However, Mondanile makes up for it by placing stunner track “Headbanging in the Mirror” right afterwards, which is a track that journeys into nostalgia just as wonderfully as the listener does. In fact, that’s something that Mondanile does incredibly well. His songwriting takes you with him into his pastel-colored, sun dappled world and spins you around until you are filled with nothing but a newfound contentment, and whether that feeling is forced or eased doesn’t really seem to matter. “Into The Sky” is another gorgeous track with obvious rhyming lyrics and a sense of childlike innocence in the vocals that seems to run rampant throughout the album, while the title track swoons and swells with intense, yet subtle trepidation. However, on first listen it’s easy to see the flaws in St. Catherine, and most of it lies mostly in the actual nature of the tracks. In the last half of the album, the songs seem to grow weary of themselves and droop accordingly, with the exception of “Medieval,” which actually seems to be the edgiest, sharpest track on the record. While the instrumentation and vocal tracks are as lovely and warm as ever, the content seems to drag and get caught up in its own listlessness. However, this doesn’t bother me too much, considering there’s also a redeeming playful sound that exists in St. Catherine. Tracks like “Surreal Exposure” and “The Laughing Woman” broadcast that firsthand, and it’s actually quite tasteful and refreshing to include this sort of track into the repertoire, since it shows another side of Ducktails – one that doesn’t float listlessly by, but instead dances across with excitement.
Ducktails is, after all, an intensely personal expression of multiple emotions, and Matt Mondanile has done a terrific job of bringing those emotions to light through gorgeous, guitar-driven indie pop. Throughout it’s hazy echoes and shimmering instrumentals, one begins to see the appeal in drifting towards and living inside the very idea of nostalgia, and over the years, I’ve found that this idea never loses it’s sense of fulfillment.
photo courtesy of artist