Published Jul 29, 2015Matt Mondanile (of Real Estate fame) is a very busy man. St. Catherine is the fifth record from his other band, Ducktails, and comes on the heels of Real Estate's latest, 2014's Atlas. The near-flawless Atlas would be a tough act for any side project to follow, but St. Catherine feels particularly slight in comparison.
Mondanile's distinctive guitar playing is a huge part of what makes Real Estate records so compelling, and his trademark guitar tone is a highlight of St. Catherine, as you would expect. The vibe is low-key pop on the twee end of the spectrum, with crisp production provided by Rob Schnapf (who also has production credits on Elliott Smith's XO and Beck's Mellow Gold).
Technically, then, we should be all systems go, but there's something missing on St. Catherine. Though the record has a hazy, dreamy sound, Mondanile's voice is thin and nasal, and the songs themselves are not as hooky or as affecting as anything in the Real Estate catalogue. The only songs that really stand out are those that more overtly stray from the formula — see "Headbanging in the Mirror" or "Church" for examples of Mondanile getting it right.
Where Atlas achieved resonance via an overarching feeling of melancholy, St. Catherine floats by pleasantly without ever really provoking any sort of reaction. Ducktails have an expert ability to create a dreamlike sound; hopefully, the next record will be bolstered by a few more memorable songs to make it a dream worth remembering. (Domino)