Monday, March 3, 2014

Album Review: Real Estate - Atlas

Real Estate
Rating: Woof Daddy

Ridgewood, New Jersey band Real Estate have released two albums of beautiful, pastoral guitar rock that speaks to long summer days, being young, and drifting aimlessly through life before responsibility takes over, the halcyon days of youth fading from view. With their third release Atlas, the band seems more grown up this time. While there is still the lackadaisical charm to the arrangements and melodies, there is a maturity here that is a huge leap from their work on their self-titled debut and their second album Days. There is still a youthful haze over everything, however, the songs have that sense of waking up from an all-nighter and having that first hangover that won't seem to go away quickly.

On opening track "Had to Hear," wistful, jangly guitars add a far-off dreamy quality to a track that laments getting older and lost relationships. Singer Martin Courtney lamenting that "I'm out again on my own/A reflection in the chrome/Of an adding machine," as he fondly remembers an old love and tries to rekindle past memories, singing "I had to hear you just to feel near you/I know its not true/But its been so long/I know its wrong."

These themes of getting older and reflecting on the past are woven throughout the record, with some of the characters able to make peace with maturity, while others never seem to move on from their youth. On melancholy brooder "Past Lives" there is the haunting line "I walk past these houses where we once stood/I see past lives but some how you're still here."

On "Crime," the simple intertwining guitar lines snake across the track, with the singer feeling the pull of adulthood, desperate to cling to something: "I don't wanna die lonely and uptight/stay with me/all will be revealed."

And on lonely closer "Navigator," the narrator has to accept that the days are never going to seem as long as they once were, the passing of time relentless and cruel. He mournfully sings "I stare at the hands on the clock/I'm still waiting for them to stop/The earliest light is just shining in/And I've no idea where the days been."

While there is a sad, melancholy feel to the record, it is not all navel gazing and hand ringing. There are some lovely, jaunty tracks throughout that show the band's dexterity and charm. On "Talking Backwards," the crisp, ringing guitars are propelled by a brisk beat,

while a shuffling beat and gorgeous guitar interplay punctuate the lovely "Primitive."

Atlas is such a wonderful record where all the songs seem to work in tandem with each other, coming together like a great collection of short stories. There is hardly a misstep on the record, except for me, the one track that is the only speed bump is countrified slow jam "How Might I Live" which just seems out of place, and quite frankly, a little on the lazy side. But the remainder of the tracks on the record more than make up for one slight hiccup.

Real Estate is not the type of band that is going to blow you away with their originality, or with trying to push the boundaries of their sound. They are simply a very good guitar-based band that with each release get more confident with what they are doing, making subtle shifts that make their music bolder and more fully realized. With Atlas, everything comes together with almost perfect harmony. The new found maturity suits them this go around, marking their progression to the upper echelons of alt-guitar pop. Atlas is simply one of the best records of the year.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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