Matt Mondaline’s fifth album as Ducktails is more of his melodic 80s dreampop; less hook-hung than his work in Real Estate but creating the same general sense of calm and comfort. It owes much to the inspiration of Felt’s Maurice Deebank (the gorgeous chiming guitars of ‘Into The Sky’) and Johnny Marr (especially the sweet-dream inspiring ‘Headbanging In The Mirror) while the gorgeous title track has a Cocteau Twins-like ethereality.
An album named after one of the 14 most helpful saints in heaven, St Catherine of Alexandria (so famous she had a firework named after her spiked-wheel method of martyrdom), the record’s gaze is sky-cast, seeking the virtue and illumination for which the saint is venerated. ‘Medieval’ captures that feeling perfectly, being plaintive, aching and questioning. The instrumentals that bookend the record, meanwhile, invite the listener’s own contemplation.
There are few absolute showstoppers – the album is generally moody and textured – but ‘Surreal Exposure’ is delicate and melodic baroque pop and ‘Church’, which features Julia Holter, is a swooning pop song with a hint of Stereolab and all the better for the duet between Holter and Mondaline, while ‘The Laughing Woman’ sounds like a spacier Elliott Smith. It’s a fine, introspective album of hypnogogic pop, full of constant striving and searching, and delivers its kick most effectively when heard as a full album.