Out now via Domino Records.
By Charlie Forrest
The late 2000s saw Real Estate crafting a reticent, underwater sound that would go on to catch the attention of Band Camp indie-philes and transport listeners back in time to a bygone era of adolescence. Listening to their music is like flicking through a dense and dusty photo album filled with the band’s early, New Jersey memories. Their sound is infectious, leaving you nostalgic for memories you wish you had and registering with that deep-down part of you that regrets not spending more time outside, looking at the horizon or swimming in lakes
Their latest release, ‘The Main Thing‘, has that familiar suburbanite feel, capturing leafy sidewalks and slow contemplative walks home, but pushes forward with high end production and more a refined soundscape. The songs are not so much drenched in atmospheric reverb as streamlined with a newfound, hi-fi, 70s pop feel, continuing on from their previous release, ‘In Mind‘. Martin Courtney takes us away from the beach bumming days of his teen years and grants us access to the thoughts and still-nostalgic reservations of a fully grown adult.
As always with Real Estate, simple guitar chord progressions carry most of the songs, deceptively straightforward in their conception but never creatively underfed or rudimentary. Its their ability to render songs instantly listenable and relatable that makes them worthy successors of Beach Boys and Beatles pop ingenuity.
“Also A But” sways with phased guitar and rocks into a swing time half way through, recalling late 60s Byrds with its captivating and psychedelic feel. Late Pavement rock elements seep through, gesturing to the band mates’ earlier music projects where they spent their weekends setting up community gigs in mom’s backyard. There are gestures to new styles as well, the intro of the opening track “Friday” cascading with ambience and a rich and smooth bass line similar in pulse to that of Air’s “la femme d’argent”. “November” has the playful qualities of a fond, romantic memory with all the unashamedly idealistic and worry-free trimmings: “Take me to the train tracks/ I can picture us there/ Its already November/ And now the ground is moving beneath sun”.
But it is on ‘The Main Thing’ that Real Estate prove themselves to be current and progressive, with jittery guitar solos that are almost jazzy in feel and similar to the experimental pop sounds on ‘Chaz Bundwick Meets the Mattson 2’.
Lyrics reference days, seasons and abstract feelings, pulling on memories of small-town mundanity and the minutiae of daily wanderings. “Take me past the courthouse/ Take me past where I was born/ No I didn’t even notice/ The colour of the door”, sings Courtney on ‘Procession’, indulging in hazy nostalgia whilst reflecting on its temporal distance and unreality. Their sound has always been synonymous with nostalgia and this album harkens back to an era of pre-adolescence, to that limbo phase between wayward teenager and fully-functioning adult, examined here with more mature and balanced song-writing. There’s a sense of time freezing in the purity of youth, as well as a lament for the decay of this purity, the inevitable transition from carefree abandon into adult responsibilities.
It’s a remarkable feat for any band to write new, original material whilst still channelling the same sonic feel that has defined them for a decade. Real Estate continue to wield their unique ability to describe daydreaming, tree gazing and round-the-block-wandering with sophistication and authenticity.
Listen to ‘The Main Thing’ here: