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Album review: Ducktails- 'Wish Hotel'

Ducktails' album 'Wish Hotel'

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Ducktails, the solo-project moniker for Matt Mondanile (the lead guitarist of renowned New Jersey surf rock band Real Estate) began—as many musical acts commonly do—in his parents’ basement. While his initial albums resembled his original band’s blend of lo-fi jangle-pop and nostalgic recantations of suburban New Jersey, his recent work—namely the ‘Wish Hotel’ EP—has grown more ambitious in sound and scope. Indeed, Mondanile’s songs have moved out of the proverbial basement and onto more grown-up oriented endeavors.

The album cover for 'Wish Hotel' by Ducktails
The album cover for 'Wish Hotel' by Ducktails
Domino Recording Company

Although this newfound sense of purpose may exist in Ducktails’ music, much of the Peter Pan-esque eternal youthfulness of the band’s initial credo remains intact. Indeed, with a name which references the popular 90s cartoon series of a similar name, Ducktails inherently inspires a wistful childhood longing among millennials with a penchant for nostalgia. And, similar to the wacky adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews, Mondanile’s musical stylings are colorful and imaginative—not to mention somewhat light-spirited.

This five-song EP begins with ‘Tie-Dye’; as the title suggests, it’s a far-out chill wave odyssey. By introducing a thumping jazz bass line and shimmering cymbal flourishes, the aesthetic landscape of the track embodies a lounge-music quality, before plunging effortlessly into an ethereal synth and guitar psychedelic jam that is reminiscent of the Doors’ ‘Riders on the Storm’ or Steve Miller Band’s ‘Fly Like an Eagle.’ Essentially, anyone who frequently attends ‘Pink Floyd Laser Light Shows’ at the local high school planetarium will appreciate this song.

Another notable track on ‘Wish Hotel’ is ‘Naïve Music’—a three-minute instrumental chill-wave journey which features a two-chord synth progression and a theme-and-variation format. By closing out the EP with this tune, Ducktails reminds the listener that, despite any resistance that an individual may encounter while awake—or in this case, psychedelic turbulence—the struggle always concludes with a dreamy repose.

When it comes to instrumental prowess, high-quality production, and melodic vocal work, one may certainly place a check in the win-column for Ducktails’ ‘Wish Hotel’. The lyrics, however, are perhaps the only blasé aspect of an otherwise lush and imaginative EP. When Mondanile’s relaxed tenor utters the lines, ‘Come on baby win me over/ Standing in a hotel/ What do you think about that?/ My odds aren’t doing so well’ on the title track, it appears evident that the lyrical aspect of songwriting isn’t exactly his forte. Ultimately, however, the good vibes and sprawling composition compensate tenfold for any deficiencies that one could possibly fathom.