The sound of Real Estate can be described as cruising through American suburbia, blissed out and sun-kissed. Driving down any road, but one which is paved with anxiety, lost love and self doubt. On Atlas, their dewy-eyed nostalgia and memories of halcyon days, not to mention painful reminders of life and love, are all evident.
The third album from the indie-rock / jangle-pop New Jersey group opens with ‘Had To Hear’. The first line “I’m out again on my own, a reflection in the chrome” serves only to reinforce this and all but sets the tone for the rest of the album. By the time track three arrives, we have been drawn in. ‘Talking Backwards’, the first single off the album and standout moment is the encapsulation of everything Real Estate are in terms of what they’ve committed to tape thus far, replete with guitar lines reminiscent of bygone guitar bands who don’t need to be named, topped off with layered, almost Byrdsian vocals.
Once again as on the previous album, the next spot is given over to an instrumental, ‘April’s Song’, which is good but you could be forgiven for harbouring the feeling that it could have been great if they had added vocals to it. Though their influences may be numerous and obvious, Real Estate still sound like themselves – and everything is done at their own pace. The music sounds effortless and laid back but the musicianship is most certainly not. They make it all sound so easy, intricate guitar patterns, subtle hooks and songs that are overflowing with melody.
Apart from ‘Talking Backwards’, other highlights are ‘The Bend’ and ‘Primitive’. There is nothing on this album that bursts out of the speakers, they are not that kind of band and this is not that kind of album. But they are a great band and this is a good album. It’s not their crowning achievement, or their masterpiece, hopefully that is still to come. It doesn’t demand to be listened to, but it should be listened to. For any fans of good guitar pop done really well, see Real Estate. And it works best when listened to from start to finish as a whole, with repeated plays rewarding the listener. Not a huge leap forward then, but definitely a move in the right direction.
Real Estate continue the good steady work here, but you get the feeling if they went off grid a little bit they could come up with something a bit special. They certainly have the chops to do it, do they have the guts?