Atlas

Real Estate

Domino, 2014

http://www.realestatetheband.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/05/2014

Real Estate’s third album treads a similar lyrical ground as one of last year’s strongest records, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City, but where that dealt with aging and the meaning of life from a literate/urban point of view, Atlas sees things from the comfort and familiarity of the suburbs.

That’s not to say the sentiments are any less relevant; indeed, Atlas dwells in the same hearts and minds that the majority of us in America possess. Now that Martin Courtney has grown up a little and moved on, he can’t seem to shake a past that was both familiar (“I don’t need the horizon to tell me where the sky ends / It’s a subtle landscape where I come from”) and comfortable (“This is not the same place I used to know / But it still has that same old sound / And even the lights on this yellow road / Are the same as when this was our town”). Most of those in their late twenties and thirties will feel this sort of pull between wanting to break free and wanting to hang on, just for a moment, to childhood dreams and friends and concerns.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Part of that concern, as ever, is a relationship gone awry – maybe a first love, or the one that got away – and Courtney articulates these thoughts with a clear voice on the regretful “Talking Backwards,” a cheerful power pop tune that makes for a good, if somewhat downcast, single. Another part is the realization that growing up is both inevitable and fast: “It’s all that I can do / Because it’s so hard to feel in control here / Like I’m behind the wheel, but it won’t steer … It was clear and why / The path I left behind / And now I feel alone.”

These sentiments are set to clear, chiming indie pop with little clutter and a little too much mannered playing, to the point where the tracks are not all that different from each other. I’m surprised nobody has pointed out how similar Courtney’s voice is to the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown; with Matthew Mondanile’s lilting lead guitar licks, the songs strongly recall some of the softer moments of the Roses’ debut album, which is a good thing. There’s a hint of late period Beatles in there as well.

But where the Stone Roses was extroverts (and a bit self-aggrandizing to boot), Real Estate internalizes, keeping their signature light, clean power pop tone but adding several degrees of melancholy and maturity. Perhaps because the focus is on the words and the mood, the songwriting is somewhat predictable, to the point where picking any two songs on the disc will pretty much tell you how the other eight sound (outside of “Talking Backwards”). There’s no denying the music is melodic and well arranged, and Mondanile does his best with his guitar leads (the jam at the end of “Had To Hear” is about as exciting as this one gets).

For those inclined to put on an album in the background during a quiet summer barbecue or aimless drive to nowhere special as the rays of the orange sun are beginning to arrive, Atlas fits the bill. It may not be terribly special musically, but in its relatable, clear lyrics, it’s bound to strike a nerve with those listeners at the same point in their life.

Rating: B-

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