Monday, July 30, 2012

Ducktails- Landscapes

There has never been a better time for nostalgia than the present day. There are so many ways to access the past: classic videogame emulators, YouTube accounts dedicated to obscure shows, commercials, cartoons and so on, to even things like entire websites and blogs dedicated to nostalgic topics, such as the Angry Video Game Nerd On or the Nostalgia Critic videos on About a year ago, I had a deep descent into nostalgia thanks to a motherlode of VHS tapes my parents let me take from our old family collection. Among them were many shows and movies taped off of cable TV, the commercials and station identifying bumps giving me a window into culture from my barely-remembered youth.

I would wager my generation may be the most nostalgic of all, simply because of how soon we became nostalgic, and how soon someone of our music reflected that. By my college years in the early 00s, it was already a thing to hang out, drink, and play old videogames. For whatever reason, the 'chillwave' music made by Ducktails, Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, and others gives the listener a nostalgic feel, and seems like it could only exist here and now, and only appeal to people like me. It brings to mind the glorious aspects of being young in the 80s and 90s without any consideration given to all the bad and serious stuff from those decades which rose tinted glasses help us glaze over. "Glaze" is a pretty good term to describe the music of Ducktails. After all, even the more traditional indie rock instrumentation on Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics seems suffused with a half-baked predilection for effects pedals and cheap production. He could have something better than a used 4-track, but he keeps hocking it for weed money.

Landscapes represents the purest distillation of pre-Real Estate Ducktails, in which vocals infrequently appear, and when they do, they are either earnestly bizarre ('Spring') or sound dribbled from the mouth of someone on strong cold medication ('House Of Mirrors'). This is a lazier, giving-less-of-a-fuck time for Ducktails, bringing to mind the kind of music someone just-serious-enough about music would make while bored, stuck in town during a college Spring Break at their parents' house. On one hand the purposefully shitty/cheap and Casio sounding beats of 'Landrunner' and 'Welcome Home [I'm Back]' are true to the nostalgic, "I made this with a bunch of instruments I took from my parents' attic" spirit of the Ducktails project, but on the other hand, if this guy can afford so many effects pedals, I bet he could afford real drums.

Wait, wasn't that sort of what Ducktails III ended up sounding like? Hmmm, yeah, I suppose so. In which case we arrive at why I love Landscapes in spite of its accidental or willful incompetence. It takes many a productive stoned afternoon and vision to produce tracks like the Boards Of Canada-esque 'Deck Observatory' or the shimmering guitar showpiece 'Wishes', and I admire any man who has one or both of those things. Stoned afternoons and vision, I mean. Ducktails III may be the better overall record, and Ducktails II is an underrated lo-fi classic, but neither has the perfect ability to incite nostalgia in me, or to approximate what it's like to spend your days playing 8-bit Nintendo games while eating Count Chocula and drinking cheap beer at a friends' apartment.

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