Matt Mondanile's hazy lo-fi explorations under his Ducktails guise have slowly been coming into clearer focus over the past few releases, but nothing could prepare the listener for this giant leap forward of a fully realized pop album. Working with members of Big Troubles and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), you can actually now hear shades Mondanile's better known gig, Real Estate, ringing through the phased jangly guitars and melodies that recall the autumnal lure of Anglo-indie icons Felt or Australia's Go-Betweens. But almost equally noticeable is a strain of late-'70s/'80s soft rock that often appears alongside, rich with bubbling synths and keys, and laidback funky, jazzy grooves that bring to mind Steely Dan as much as the Style Council or Prefab Sprout (check "Sedan Magic," which features Cults' Madeline Follin dueting with Mondaline, the track replicating the airy atmospherics of Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good
almost to a T). Even so, the pang of nostalgia you'd find on a Real Estate record is here in spades, from the pastoral haze of album opener "Ivy Covered House" to the title track, which walks a nice middle ground between the languid jangle of the Chills and the white-boy soul of a Todd Rundgren ballad. Of course, given Ducktails' predilection for experimentation, The Flower Lane
isn't as straight-laced as it first appears on the surface; halfway through the album Mondaline and his band offer up a pretty obscure cover by way of onetime Clean and Chills member Peter Gutteridge's "Planet Phrom" and then, a few songs later, take a short Neu!-esque romp with the motorik instrumental, "International Date Line." The biggest surprise, however, comes near the end of the record with "Letter of Intent," an unexpected detour into sparkling, R&B-influenced synth-pop with Future Shuttle's Jessa Farkas handling most of the vocals, the track having far more in common with Nite Jewel than anything Mondaline is normally associated with. It drives the point home that Ducktails has entered a new chapter, and while the experimental tendencies of his past releases as a solo project may have been eschewed for bona fide songs and band mates, the flower lane that Mondaline now travels will surely continue to offer great and colorful surprises at almost every bend.
-Gerald Hammill (January 30, 2013)
"The Flower Lane"