For anyone coming to Ducktails off the back of Matthew Mondanile’s better known work with indie suburbanites Real Estate, fear not; this is not some radical, experimental side project. Sure, some of his project’s earlier releases focused more on hazy, meandering jams and floating guitar lines than the bright, neatly constructed vignettes the five-piece have become acclaimed for, but they share plenty of DNA; mostly, a deep affinity for tropical, sun-dappled guitar pop and sweet, wistful melodies that hang in the air. On ‘St. Catherine’, Mondanile’s fifth solo outing, he’s zeroed in on those elements and lopped off all the zen pedal-gazing; the result is Ducktails’ smoothest, most enveloping collection of songs yet.

The presence of über-producer Rob Scnapf is no doubt responsible for some of the crispness and punch sprinkled throughout the eleven tracks, but the album really shines when Mondanile pushes himself outside his woozy, summertime-at-dusk instrumentation. Both ‘Church’ and ‘Heaven’s Room’ employ sweeping strings and intricate harmonies to great effect, while the soaring ‘Into The Sky’ is his most grandiose statement to date. Even the record’s title, homage to the patron saint of knowledge and virtue, is indicative of an artist daring to think big and test his limits. His signature “vibe” is still very much present and correct, but the added substance proves he has the chops to flourish beyond mere slacker comfort music.


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