I suppose the most jarring thing about Ducktails is just how sharply the laid back nature of their sound contrasts with Matt Mondanile's work ethic. Not content to put his feet up whilst the band that represent his day job, Real Estate, are on hiatus, he's thrown himself headfirst back into this solo project, with new EP Wish Hotel arriving just weeks after the conclusion of a lengthy, full band European tour, and mere months since the last Ducktails full-length, The Flower Lane, dropped back in January.
Tempting as it is to draw the conclusion that an EP so soon after a full record is likely to comprise material that didn't quite make the cut last time around, Wish Hotel seldom sounds like it might have sprung from the same sessions as The Flower Lane. Instead, Mondanile seems to have taken the opportunity to experiment a little; opener 'Tie-Dye', with the apt refrain of "pay no attention to the things they say", takes its percussive cues straight from acid jazz, with shuffling drums running under twinkling guitars and hazy vocals.
Wish Hotel is a purely solo work on Mondanile's part, unlike the LP that preceded it, and it's hard to tell whether he's less indebted to the influences that shaped The Flower Lane or simply less willing to wear them quite so obviously on his sleeve. Everything melts together gorgeously on standout 'Honey Tiger Eyes'; in a move that signals genuine progression, the guitar is used sparingly, more for punctuation than texture, with woozy synths the song's main driving force.
The biggest issue I've had with Ducktails in the past, though, continues to rear its head elsewhere on this EP; there's a fine line between sounding pleasantly lackadaisical and just plain meandering, and it hasn't been drawn very distinctly on the title track here. Elsewhere, Mondanile has had the good sense to keep the guitar solos brief and punchy, but here it's a drawn-out affair, and the decision to juxtapose unusually upbeat percussion with the otherwise standard Ducktails palette of mellow sounds eventually grates.
On the appropriately-titled 'Jazz', he's back to exploring new territory; there's a smattering of acoustic guitar in there, but otherwise the main complement to the skittering, freeform drumming is a well-matched couplet of spacey keys and a wandering riff. Instrumental closer 'Naive Music' is a variation on the same theme, and really serves more as an extended coda to the EP than anything else.
Without wanting to sound too critical, there is some naive music on Wish Hotel; it feels a tad bloated in places, and there's the occasional miss in terms of instrumental choices to go along with a plethora of hits. Such is the nature of experimentation, though, and it's refreshing to see the EP format being used for artistic advancement, rather than a cynical cash-in on unreleased material.
6Joe Goggins's Score