Jersey Solo Project Hides Melodies Behind Expectedly Lo-Fi Haze

Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics

There’s something about laid-back guitar riffs and murky vocals that capture the essence of youth — a sentiment that New Jersey natives Real Estate have taken to heart. On their self-titled 2009 debut, the band paired its hazy lo-fi aesthetic with beach-ready pop, crafting a record that’s the pinnacle of the Beach Boys-gone- psychedelic trend of the moment (See: Panda Bear, Beach Fossils).

Ducktails, the pet project of lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile, are little different.

Arcade Dynamics is all predictably jangly surf-pop, with a few experimental instrumental tracks sprinkled throughout.

Case in point: pre-release single “Hamilton Road” contains much of the off-handed charm that made Real Estate’s debut so pleasant. Mondanile sets his fuzzy vocals — which describe a summer day relaxing in a tree house, accompanied by other childhood cliche?s — to meandering guitar lines. The result’s as catchy as it is subtle.

But for every delicately crafted gem, there’s a synth-heavy complement like “The Razor’s Edge,” a two-minute instrumental track unremarkable in its ambience. “Arcade Shift” and “Porch Projector” both follow in the same vein: pleasant at best, gratingly sluggish at worst.

One of the album’s strongest tracks, the upbeat “Killin’ the Vibe” defines the Ducktails’ aesthetic. Over the multitudinous guitar riffs present throughout the album, Mondanile pleads that the listener “Don’t go killin’/ Killin’ the vibe.”

It’s a pleasant little song, just like the record itself. But while Arcade Dynamics is definitely listenable, it doesn’t come close to the kind of detailed craftsmanship that characterizes similar works, like Real Estate’s debut or Julian Lynch’s Mare. Sure, Ducktails have plenty of good, throwback vibes — but unfortunately the tracks fade into the sunshine. (6/10)