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Ducktails Review

by Jesse Jarnow

One would be hard-pressed to call Ducktails' self-titled full-length a "debut," given Matthew Mondanile's eight previous releases in 2007 and 2008 on cassette, 7", and LP. But the eponymous album is also Mondanile's proper coming out. Consolidating songs and ideas that he refined over his earlier one-man band output, Ducktails refines Mondanile's lo-fi beach pop (mostly) instrumentals into a pleasant mix of woozy structures and impossibly distant choruses ("Dancing with the One You Love"), pinched-voice indie rock ("The Mall"), and an 11-minute drone-out ("Surf's Up") that captures the best of Mondanile's cassette-obsessed aesthetic. (He has said that he only records on tape.) While the songs themselves aren't exactly hook-filled ("The Mall" recalls the sloppy Neil Young-influenced pop of Mondanile's occasional Brooklyn tourmates, Woods), and don't entirely stack up to Real Estate, the Martin Courtney-led quartet in which Mondanile plays lead guitar, that's not the point, either. Ducktails' vibe is nearly impeccable. Regardless of musical development -- Mondanile's willfully lo-fi and hiss-filled approach leaves much room for development and growth -- his summer town imagery (other titles include "Pizza Time," "Beach Point Pleasant," and "Daily Vacation") combined with his nostalgic palette make Ducktails eminently listenable. Despite the guitars and drum machines, perhaps the most productive way to think of Mondanile's work is as beach-time ambience, like Boards of Canada, should they choose to roam the vast Jersey Shore of the mind instead of their own icy wastes.

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