Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails continue to supply dreamy, blissful guitar rock on latest release ‘St. Catherine’. In recent years, the Real Estate guitarist has been consecutively putting his imaginative guitar style to good use, what with the band’s 2014 album ‘Atlas’ getting a fine amount of recognition critically. And with Mondanile playing a major part in shaping the band’s sound and putting a great amount of creative input forward, you’d think that his contribution to Real Estate’s success could certainly lead to similar things on Ducktails’ ‘St. Catherine’, a project where he essentially has complete control.
The two focuses of the album are texture and melody. In fact, the textures are what give this album real personality. Throughout the album you hear reverb-soaked guitars withholding a really dreamy atmosphere, alongside calm-yet-tough vocals. You also get the occasional string section thrown in, along with a few different keyboards. The melodies, as mentioned, are also frequent, and while they aren’t always outstanding or memorable, they go hand-in-hand very nicely with the guitar sounds and the overall dreamy nature of the album. Take the opening track, ‘The Disney Afternoon’, the song simply has one of the most gorgeous intro’s you’ll hear this year. It’s an instrumental piece made up of a few different sections which mostly all contain floaty backgrounds of organ chords and subtle rhythmic parts that act as a foundation, all the while guitar tones echo in the foreground, this all creates the near-perfect amalgamation of the aforementioned focuses of this record. For a while after said opening track, the band continues to throw around their psychedelic weight, some of these songs are unremarkable, albeit harmless, they’re mostly just part of the scenery. ‘Into the Sky’ revolves around a nice, lush guitar hook, and the title track has a really satisfying bassline that constantly settles nicely into the root note.
The album travels along with more exploration, including a pretty fun baroque pop theme on ‘Surreal Exposure’, and a continued feeling of sleepiness, highlighted on the track ‘Church’, which features wondrous guest vocals from Julia Holter. Everything comes to a head with two final instrumental pieces, which aren’t anywhere near as thrilling as ‘The Disney Afternoon’, but they’re still fairly enjoyable and easy to slip into.
‘St. Catherine’ might not keep up with the pace that is set for the album early on, but there are so many quirks and qualities on show that make for a good listen. Composition-wise, it’s interesting but not consistently so, production-wise, it’s almost mesmerising – obviously meant in a good way. It’s significant, it’s abstract, and it’s very psychedelic.