4 March 2014 (Domino Records and Mexican Summer)
By Joe DeBonis
If there was ever a record to embody a season, it is Atlas by Real Estate. Images of springtime, peace and tranquility are vividly created as soon as the opening guitar notes of “Had To Hear” quietly jangle over the almost nonexistent back beat of the drums. Then Martin Courtney’s smooth warble resonates over the delicate guitar and even gentler drums and the most relaxed feeling begins to flow from the music. “Had To Hear” is the opening track on Atlas, but it is also has the possibility to be the anthem for spring of 2014.
Chill vibes and even chiller tunes have always been Real Estate’s calling card, and their latest endeavor is no different. The pace of songs may change and the chords may vary, but the serene mood of the music never changes. And it really hasn’t on any of Real Estate’s three albums and the beauty in the music they make is that if that tranquil feeling ever does go away; then the band will have lost all of their magic. Real Estate has a formula down for the music they are making and there is not a damn thing wrong with it. Few bands focus so specifically on creating a kind of mood or feeling with their music. Mostly it is about either a message, or a story that is trying to be portrayed with an album. With Real Estate though, they seem to focus solely on making listeners relax, take a look at life and realize that everything is OK and that life goes on. It is an awesome sentiment to be able to achieve from just the sounds their guitars make.
Martin Courtney has the perfect voice to help achieve all of this as he sings almost like he is whispering in your ear. He never once rises above a murmur but still can enunciate and pronounces his words gracefully and succinctly. His voice also is the perfect volume to be placed over the comfortable guitar riffs that appear everywhere on the album. This all plays right into the fact that none of the songs have any particular, heavy meaning. They all discuss love and life fairly broadly, but at an appropriate level for such carefree music. On “Primitive,” when Courtney sings, “Don’t know where I want to be, oh but I’m glad that you’re with me,” it is really embodying the album’s lyrical content. Still confused about life but content to accept it as long as his love is with him. A nice peaceful notion that added to that simple but powerful guitar does a wonderful job of bringing a smile to anyone’s face.
A lot of bands find a need to tinker and change their style of music as they grow and change. Real Estate has found a perfect balance between growth and sticking to what has made them such a loved band with their simple but effective way at forming music that anyone can find appealing. From their first release, Real Estate, to now, the band has smoothed out their edges and created a more fine tuned sound but in reality has stayed true to their roots of noodling on the guitar with calm vocals echoing in the background.
That’s why this album is so simply wonderful. The band has come so far, yet not far at all since their first album. Real Estate still is making music that can really only be listened to in the spring and the one, if any really big change is that it is just a tad bit more mature sounding. Clearly they are a band that has been around the block now and that comes out in their music, but they never forget where they started. It is commendable to stay so close to home with their sound but also find ways to branch out so subtly it is almost as if they don’t. Atlas is an easy listen and is a perfect third album for a band that is only gaining in popularity and will probably end up being an album of the year for a lot of people and review sites alike; its just that enjoyable to listen to.
Rating: Gotta Have It