In review: Atlas by Real Estate

Real Estate Photo by Shawn Brackbill Used under Creative Commons License
Real Estate
Photo by Shawn Brackbill
Used under Creative Commons License

James Tunnel, Staff Writer

   With their third full length album release, Real Estate has firmly cemented their place in the current music scene as one of the most consistently great acts around. Following 2010’s excellent album “Days”, “Atlas” finds Real Estate in new, yet familiar territory. They still have the same lackadaisical, surfy vibe to their music. However, where their previous works were delivered through a summery haze of suburban nostalgia, the clarity in “Atlas” brings the talents of Real Estate into full view. But don’t worry, they’re still the same lovably nonchalant crew from Ridgewood, New Jersey.

   And that’s the beauty of Real Estate; they haven’t lost a thing in the transition, and part of that is because they haven’t tried to re-invent themselves. They know what works and what doesn’t within their band. Lead singer Martin Courtney’s voice still dances around the simple melodies of lead guitarist Matt Mondanile, and it continues to sounds great. Bassist Alex Bleeker still provides simple bouncing bass lines that help to propel the songs forward.

   You can’t point to one piece of Real Estate and say, “That’s why they’re great.” It all just fits together into a breezy sound that feels like you’re on a float trip with your best buds after your senior year of college. Interestingly, most of the album was recorded live at Wilco’s recording studio in Chicago called The Loft, a point that long time fans of Wilco will surely not overlook, considering their trajectory from alt-country heroes to their current status as a dad-rock jam band. Thankfully, the soul of Real Estate has been left in tact.

   Thematically, “Atlas” is a bit more serious than previous efforts. As mentioned before, Real Estate’s thematic focal point up to this stage in their career has been an achingly suburban nostalgia. There’s still that wistful feeling, but it’s tempered into conflicts of the here and now.

In their first single, “Talking Backwards,” Courtney sings “And I might as well be talking backwards/Am I making any sense to you/And the only thing that really matters/ Is the one thing I can’t seem to do.” In previous albums, Courtney sang about fuzzy space in time, looking back through a window fogged by his own memory. Now, instead of trying to make sense of the past, he’s attempting to make his way into the future. If this record is any indication of the future of Real Estate, then there’s not a whole lot to worry about.