The relaxed surfgaze rockers who comprise Ridgewood, NJ’s Real Estate understand the innate desire to romanticize about those simpler times — before careers and giant life commitments. “Back when we had it so easy,” was the opening lyric of their nonchalant 2011 album, Days, which celebrated the breeze and bliss of suburban New Jersey summers.
Three years down the road and driving forward, Real Estate retain their trademark jamming ethos while lyrically addressing future-oriented themes of commitment and adulthood insecurities. On Atlas, the band sounds more polished than ever, providing their most mature commentary thus far.
Dwelling on the concern of growing older, “Past Lives” suggests that the nostalgia that had underscored the bands’ first two albums is now distant. “I cannot come back to this neighborhood without feeling my old age,” sings frontman Martin Courtney.
Atlas does a superb job communicating emotionally dense ideas, unpretentiously. Lead guitarist Matt Mondanile uses upbeat, layered guitar pickings while Courtney sings with light echoing and gentle reverb. Across its ten songs, the album is sounds like the backdrop for a casual beer-in-hand barbecue / dear niece’s birthday. Real Estate have created a mantra for approaching adulthood with a relaxed outlook.
Songs like “Crime” ask if it is possible to remain laid back as a responsible adult. Accompanied by a free-flowing guitar riff that the band released as an instructable guitar tab, Courtney sings: “I don’t want to die lonely and uptight.” Meanwhile, the chorus of “Primitive” addresses the uncertainty of settling down; Courtney confesses: “[I] don’t’ know where I want to be / and all I know is it’d be easy to leave.”
Despite these concerns, the album is strung together at leisurely, uncomplicated pace best exemplified in “April’s Song,” where cyclic and cheerful guitar rhythms provide a sense of assurance and comfort. Similarly, the song “Horizon” yields feelings of optimism, security and promise for long-term commitments that may arise.
Navigating uncertain feelings is something college students can relate to as they come to terms with unpredictability and the discomfort that paves their future. Atlas serves as a roadmap.
Article by Michael Roe