I have to believe that when my mother was pregnant with me, she ate a Walkman. Music has been the driving passion of my life since I was a tiny kid.
At age seven, when most kids were still sucking their thumb watching Mulan, my grandfather and I were listening to “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. As I grew up, I tried to expand my musical horizons with Applachian folk, Dixieland swing, and gypsy jazz. Everything is fair game. Everything deserves some credit. As of late I’ve been raking through the Indie rock movement happening across the world. This blog will be some of my favorites.
This month I will focus on the band Real Estate.
Real Estate is a chilled out, surf pop group from the sunny shores of New Jersey. They just dropped their second album, Days, last month on Domino Records. Whereas other bands might be tempted to try and reinvent their metaphorical wheel with a sophomore album, Real Estate sticks to their guns and comes out looking a lot wiser and more mature for it.
Let’s get things straight off the bat: Real Estate is not the new Led Zeppelin. They are not technical masters of their instruments. Guitarists Martin Courtney and Matthew Mondanile aren’t going to be getting the flame-fingers at concerts. Unless they have a real big ace up their sleeve, this band won’t be producing any ear-shattering distortion stomps in time signatures that would make Steven Hawking give a double take anytime soon (which would be pretty fantastic, mind you. A man can dream). But then again, all that technical stuff is overrated anyway. I don’t really care how fast you can “shred” your Van Halen licks, guitar shop bros.
And I’m not the only one who thinks that either. The boys in Real Estate are just fine with not playing as loud or fast as they can. Where they excel is in the space between what they play. Every note is placed just right; it’s so simple but careful. They have the basic, classic indie rock elements: two twangy, reverbed drenched guitars, garage rock drumming and simple, soulful basslines. Courtney’s lyrics hover above the mix, spouting out hook after hook. The whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts on Days.
The rare and incredible thing I’ve found in this band is their knack to take some of your fondest childhood and teenage memories, and continually condense them down into pop gems. On “Kinder Blumen,” you feel the grass on your skin as you lay atop the hill watching the animal-shaped clouds drift on into oblivion, eyes squinted from the sunlight. “Green Aisles” will take you back to those first late early teenage nights, the foggy memories of conversations of life and love at four in the morning in the basement with all the other party-goers asleep around you. As dawn broke the next morning, walking barefoot through the dewy grass, “Out of Tune” is now playing through your subconscious radio.
Days will even make you feel sentimental about experiences you never had. When “Wonder Years” came on, you envision the blissful pop coming from the A.M. radio in a Chevelle in 1975, driving down the Midwestern interstates with the windows down, arm outstretched and dancing in the wind with grain fields and Coca-Cola billboards passing.
The album is also a fantastic choice if you’re hopping the car for a joyride. In the days of ever-climbing gas prices, the cathartic release of road trips are becoming an endangered hobby. Days calls for motion. You yearn to move as you listen, to find those summer sentiments at the end of whatever road your tires find.
Real Estate has always been a consistent band. But after an album and an EP, they are just beginning to settle in their skins and become something special. Earlier works from labels Woodsist and Underwater Peoples sometimes felt like abruptly getting off a treadmill and trying to walk; the rhythms and hooks would keep turning over in your head.
Not to say that they weren’t enjoyable, but they often relied on repeating phrases until they soaked in. Not so much the case on Days. Songs are quicker off the draw to catch your attention. This is yet another sign of maturity for an already good quality band.
With winter coming up on us, go out and grab a copy of the new album by Real Estate. Days will be your perfect companion to fight off the winter chills and put a sunny, summer oasis in your car stereo.