Matt Mondanile was initially known as the guitarist for New Jersey indie band Real Estate, but he has since used his lo-fi side project Ducktails to explore different aspects of his full-time gig, from chillwave experiments to jangly psych-pop. For The Flower Lane, Mondanile has rounded up an assortment of collaborators and taken his homemade dabblings into the studio, resulting in a more mature and lushly developed sound that’s increasingly comparable to Real Estate’s hazy jams. Though the album doesn’t stray too far out of Mondanile’s comfort zone, the touch of sophistication adds some depth to its gentle charms.
With a smooth, soft-rock vibe and liberal use of analog synths, The Flower Lane is soaked in a bleary nostalgia that often harks back to the ’70s, particularly on slick, sax-infused lounge piece “Under Cover” and the lightly funky title track. Thankfully, Mondanile’s slacker execution keeps his obsession with retrospection from ever feeling like a gimmick; his songs maintain a dreamy, expansive quality such that influences seem to drift in and out of the ether. The Flower Lane isn’t all abstract meanderings, however. In spite of the album’s lazy pace, it’s surprisingly disciplined and streamlined, free of the tedious navel-gazing that tested listeners’ patience on Ducktails’ previous recordings.
By sticking to tighter song structures and utilizing the full accompaniment of a backing band, The Flower Lane gives Mondanile’s sunny hooks the prominence they deserve, leading to a number of memorable cuts: Peppy opener “Ivy Covered House,” for example, burbles along to a sparkling, breezy guitar riff, while airily seductive “Letter Of Intent” weaves in male-female vocal interplay and a slinky synth groove courtesy of guest Oneohtrix Point Never. Lurking behind the bright, playful tone are somber themes of urban isolation and loneliness, lending a degree of thoughtfulness to the album’s more immediate pop pleasures. On The Flower Lane, Mondanile mostly sticks to what’s familiar, but injects a healthy dose of finesse.