Matt Mondanile returns with a new Ducktails album in St. Catherine, and leans towards his taste of the chilled out and sublime. Recent albums have definitely had a more eighties connotation, but this one not so much: it strips back that vibe and replaces it with a chilled out Californian baroque pop atmosphere, and sends you on a journey of relaxation.
Starting off with The Disney Afternoon (why not, after all, the band name is a play on a 90s Disney cartoon), the song’s unique drum beat splits the track in two, giving way for flailing guitars, airy bass and 60s tinged synthesised piano sounds. The result is a retro feel but with a contemporary spirit.
Headbanging In The Mirror follows, and is anything but what the title describes, instead featuring gentle tones and a floaty pace. The track somehow hypnotizes you into a calm trance with its bells and simple rhythms, without moving anywhere special; this is a skill that only a handful of musicians are able to achieve… and maybe Derren Brown. The Laughing Woman goes for a completely different feel, being more closely related to a psychedelic Beatles track, whereas Heaven’s Room takes you up to a magical land with its dreamy innocence, openness, vulnerability and chilled atmosphere.
Like Heaven’s Room, Church borrows Julia Holter for some added vocal layers, really bringing the track out of its shell. Interlocking harmonies force the song to a brighter place, and the increased layers and vocal play make this an album highlight.
Some people may question the simplicity of certain tracks, but it’s in this simplicity where the album really finds its groove. You can tell Matt has spent a long time to make the album sound so laid back and chilled, when really it must have taken a long time to get everything perfect. St. Catherine is a labour of love, and a record that is up there with the best that Ducktails can offer.