Real Estate’s debut album is like a moving train–and you’re along for the ride. It’s pleasant, you’re going somewhere nice, the journey is easy, carefree and free of bumps in the road…
Those ellipses are meant to symbolize the feeling of an early summer evening, when the sun takes hours to set. This album is all about the enjoyment of time, and also the understanding that time passes and memories fade.
The self-titled album starts off poppy with “Beach Comber.” This is good placement—you’re instantly humming along. The melody is quick to catch and easy to like. The staccato drums imply skipping and throwing stones into lakes. Still, the notes struck are slightly melancholy, which is part of the utterly unstoppable appeal of Real Estate: the band’s songs seem light and enjoyable, and they are. But there’s something there under the surface: complicated feelings coming though in the chords and sometimes in the lyrics.
Indeed, these songs are mainly ruminations on suburban life–pools and dogs are common themes–but there are also songs that feature close to no lyrics at all. Maybe that’s because it’s easier for Martin Courtney IV to get his feelings out through the notes.
This works to the band’s advantage because it leaves room for the listener to get lost. Every time I listen to this record it happens.
In a day and age when full albums are falling out of favor, to hear one as cohesive as this is a slap in the face. It doesn’t hurt. It feels like the first drop on a rollercoaster. You’re alive!
The second track is another that blooms with time and a steady beat, which bassist Alex Bleeker provides throughout the album. “Pool Swimmers” is slow and hazy and the vocals are drenched in a reverb-induced echo. It’s almost like you’re underwater. Remember that scene in The Graduate when Dustin Hoffman jumps into the pool with his scuba gear and everything is muddled and he’s confused and then a Simon & Garfunkel song begins playing? This song would be used in that scene were the movie made today.
I am, of course, not likening Real Estate to Simon & Garfunkel. The power of the latter’s songs at that time were of extreme consequence—politically and otherwise. Real Estate songs are mostly about passing the time, getting lost, feeling numbed over with bliss. Is the bliss real? Or is it a necessity in hard times to find bliss and soak it up? I’m not going to get into an economic discussion here but I will say the members of Real Estate are all recent college grads who probably saw many of their friends graduate with no prospects. Good thing these guys have been playing music together since they were young, and good thing they have some business savvy friends from their formative years (the dudes behind Underwater Peoples Records) who wanted to put out early 7 inch recordings of them.
By the time the third track pulls into the station the album is really off and running. Each song progresses into the next without a break, like honey. “Black Lake” and “Atlantic City” are jams that keep folding and unfolding. The next track, “Fake Blues,” is the album’s centerpiece, as well as the song that gives the album a spine. With lyrics like these, everything becomes very clear:
Now it’s not as if I choose/ But I got to find a reason to write this song/ And I wont be here for long.”
Again the theme is time. Time is what keeps everything moving, ticking, passing by.
“Green River” follows “Fake Blues” like the sun follows a rain shower. “You know these days I ain’t hard to please.” Everyone needs a little pick-me-up.
The last three songs on the album are extremely atmospheric, each one giving off a feeling that you can instantly tap into. Whether it’s nostalgia: “Snow Days,” tranquility: “Suburban Beverage,” or relaxation induced confusion: the instrumental “Let’s Rock The Beach,” there’s something tangible in each. For all the soul searching that seems to be going on in this album, the songs are extremely accessible.
The members of Real Estate, with the exception of the drummer Etienne Duguay, grew up together in suburban, leafy Ridgewood, New Jersey. The town is actually a “village,” and one of the only “villages” in New Jersey. This place has served as a huge inspiration for the band and in fact they all still live there. Perhaps time passes differently there. Maybe things don’t change. Maybe memories linger longer.
Real Estate: Fake Blues
Correction: Etienne Duguay did go to high school with the other band members.
Actual Fact: “Matt (guitar), Bleeker (bass), and I all grew up together in Ridgewood, NJ. Etienne is from Massachusetts, but has started saying that he is from Jersey to make things easier. So yeah, we are a New Jersey band.” Thanks to Pixelhorse for the info. Read more here.