Mar 16, 2017 Web Exclusive
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For a bunch of barely 30-year-olds, the members of Real Estate sure know how to make some stellar soft rock. That's not meant as an insult—their last album, Atlas, is one of the best albums of the last several years, drenched in mid-tempo melodies and lyrics about returning to a home that doesn't quite fit anymore. That kind of emotional honesty coupled with imagist lyrics give Real Estate a kind of subtle power belied by their easy-listening stylings—however perfect their warm guitar tones might be.
With their new album, In Mind, the band aren't reinventing the wheel, but they're expanding their canvas a bit. Before, Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney's guitars layered overtop each other with a casual interplay; now, Mondanile has left the band (to focus on his other band, Ducktails), and Julian Lynch has stepped into the other guitarist role. This shows up in occasionally frayed guitar tones ("Saturday," "Two Arrows") but other times, he syncs up with the band perfectly on songs that could have fit on Atlas ("White Light," "Stained Glass"). There are also hints of synth ("Darling," "Holding Pattern") and more varied rhythms (the lovely waltz "After the Moon" and the bossa nova "Time") that set some of these songs apart from previous efforts.
Courtney remains remarkably gifted at pinpointing that particular feeling of wrestling with adulthood and responsibility while still feeling like a kid. And he does much of it through a sense of place. In "Stained Glass," "the laughing brook that ran right through this town slowed to a smile when the mercury dropped down" and the winter is a reminder of a hometown he can't seem to leave. "When does one thing ever end, and the next begin?" he wonders on "Same Sun," echoing every 30-something who looks at a newborn and a spouse and wonders "when did that happen?" When matched with the deceptively simple beauty of Real Estate's music, these musings seem imbued with meaning, as if the mundanity of life might hold much more than we can get at intellectually. "A strong current will sweep you downstream, it would best not to resist," Courtney sings on "Saturday," and on In Mind, Real Estate wants to remind you that's okay. (www.realestatetheband.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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