Ducktails – St Catherine (4 stars)

Ducktails – St Catherine


Baroque jangle pop on laid-back fifth Ducktails album

Just as night follows day, so too does another Ducktails album come hot on the heels of one by Real Estate. LA-based New Jersey native Matthew Mondanile has been going effectively turnabout for five years now on new records by his two tandem projects, the former a more-or-less solo endeavour featuring contributions from guest performers, the latter the group he’s played lead guitar with now across three albums up to 2014’s Atlas to mounting critical and commercial success.

Like a double-helix, the strands of which seem to wind ever closer together, so too have the songs become increasingly more sound-alike, with sometimes just the contrast between Mondanile’s reedy slouch of a voice and Real Estate singer Martin Courtney’s dreamier tones standing as obvious signposts of specific provenance (try a blind taste test with the shuffle button and see how you get on). Regardless, it’s always a pleasure to hear whatever kind of music this horizontally laid-back jangler has a hand in, and St Catherine – Ducktails’ fifth album to date, co-produced by Rob Schnapf who’s best known for his work with the late Elliot Smith – proves little exception.

Instrumental ‘The Disney Afternoon’ opens as Mondanile sharpens his heavily effects-treated guitar chops over a Shins-esque baroque-y cascade of tumbling toms and keys. Deceptively-titled lead single ‘Headbanging In The Mirror’ (featuring bubbling ambience from New York electronic musician James Ferraro) is a statement of marvellously chilled intent.

‘Into The Sky’ shows that Mondanile knows where the fuzz pedal is when he needs it with its fine crunchy tremolo shiver of a riff. Electro-wonk duet ‘Church’ features heavenly guest vocals from Julia Holter. The title track is one of Mondanile’s loveliest, most blissed-out solo compositions yet, with a cascading, woozy melody like waves from a cool ocean rippling on a hot shore. Indeed, true to type, St Catherine is in general such a summery warm species of an album you wonder if it might not fly off and migrate to warmer climes come winter.

St Catherine is released Jul 24 on Domino.

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