With nostalgia baked right into the name Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile chose for his solo project, the badly dubbed VHS tape snow with which he coated each spindly guitar lick, and that patented glo-fi fuzz, Ducktails’s Landscapes fit neatly into the chillwave subgenre. But Ducktails initially stood apart from fellow bedroom loners like Neon Indian and Washed Out because Mondanile showed little interest in pop song structures. Instead, his work relied on repetition to lull the listener into a state where pining for the Saturday morning cartoons of yore sounded like a good idea. No judgment there: I dig Landscapes and TaleSpin in equal measure. His dreamy guitar laid over short, creaking loops, especially on a song like “Beach Point Pleasant,” seemed like the purest expression of hypnagogic pop.
Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics kisses all that goodbye, with Mondanile essentially cutting a new Real Estate record without the rest of his bandmates. On Real Estate’s debut, Mondanile took center stage on two instrumentals that began life as Ducktails tracks. Under the Real Estate banner, the songs shined brighter with smoother tones, a notch more reverb, and live drums and bass. Those tunes fleshed out the shore-in-winter mood that album captured so well. Arcade Dynamics, then, falls somewhere in between the cleaned-up Real Estate sound and the noisier aesthetic of Landscapes. This isn’t a massive misstep; the true mistake is how much Mondanile sings here. Over half of these tracks are typical pop songs with vocals with lyrics like, “Everybody knows a book is hard to finish/if you’re not really into it.”
With a memorable riff and a sing-along chorus, “Killin the Vibe” is the most successful song on the album. More than anything else here, it could pass as a Real Estate B-side, which won’t satisfy listeners looking for the Ducktails of Landscapes. Really, not much here will. But even as “Killin the Vibe” also functions as further proof that Mondanile should leave the singing to others. Listen to both the album version of the song and the bonus version with Panda Bear on backup vocals; doing little more than adding arpeggios of sonorous syllables, Noah Lennox’s bottomless, nostalgia-machine pipes bless the track with more sunniness than anything Mondanile can muster by himself. Arcade Dynamics may be the best teaser for Panda Bear’s upcoming Tomboy yet.