Real Estate - Atlas
Record Label: Domino Records
Release Date: March 4, 2014
It's just about that time of the year when the long, bleak, dark days of the winter are finally fading away and the sun is fighting to break through. It's that time when the temperatures are mild, the summer is coming and hazy festival days are becoming more and more of an oncoming reality. Therefore, its the perfect time for a Real Estate album. The Brooklyn foursome have returned with Atlas, the follow up to 2011's breakthrough success, Days. If Days established Real Estate as the primary proprietors of breezy, melancholic indie-pop, Atlas consolidates the band as not only the best at what they do, but as one of the most reliable, consistent indie bands in today's scene.
Atlas is largely based around of the idea that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it, just make it even better'. The main ingredients of Days are omipresent throughout the record - 60s' surf-pop guitars, gentle effortless vocals and, of course, the constant feeling of aural bliss. However, rather than allow it to seem like the band had just dialled in the record, Real Estate ensure that the whole atmosphere that shrouds the record is brand new. Forgive me for allowing the review to get a little too hip, but the album is like an old photo of Real Estate, however the filter is drastically different this time around. Where Days was the sound of falling in love, Atlas is the sound of that love fading away, slowly and sadly. From the slow opening chords of "Had To Hear", it's blatantly obvious that this isn't a record to lift spirits but one to question why spirits are so low. Kicking off with the lyric 'I'm out again on my own", "Had To Hear" is centered around the idea of a distant lover and the disintegration caused by that distance. As this theme continues throughout Atlas, it's somewhat refreshing to have a record based on the undramatic, simplistic situation of a relationship falling apart due to communication issues. It's a subject that matter that only a band as laidback and natural as Real Estate could properly pull off - in these songs, no one is at fault, no one is angry, no one is heartbroken, the subject is stuck with a sad sense of inevitability and the band's flowing melodies and gentle vocals convey this perfectly. No track on the record is better at establishing this feeling than lead single "Talking Backwards". Despite the pretty, chirpy, layered guitars, the track has a quiet loneliness that is so real in people's lives, but is never really conveyed through song. Lyrics such as "The only thing that really matters is the one thing I can't seem to do", whilst simple, show that Real Estate have a true understanding of human nature and the fact that every feeling isn't always an explosion. If Days' lyrics seemed frivolous or throwaway, Atlas has an added depth that the band hadn't previously explored.
Aside from lyricism, the instrumentation is, as is expected from Real Estate, completely impeccable. Atlas is blessed with the lushest of melodies and simplistic sounding but skilled layered guitarwork. The mid-paced tempo and gentle instrumentation create a nostalgic atmosphere in which the listener is transported to a lonely summer's night on an abandoned beach. Real Estate are the sort of band whose natural talent lures the listener into their music without them ever having to be showy or dramatic. If a band can alter the mindset of their listener with this little effort than they don't need to prove themselves to anyone. Not that Real Estate haven't given new sounds a try. "How Might I Live" veers very much into country rock territory whilst "Past Lives" has an air of lounge blues to it. These tracks may not be the strongest of the record, however they are a pointed attempt at evolution which still fits cohesively alongside their usual indie-pop.
Atlas is the best album we could have wanted from Real Estate. They're still one of the very few bands providing this organic, youthful sound, unaffected by the musical trends that exist within the alternative scene, and for that reason, their music is absolutely necessary. If you're looking for a record fueled by real emotions created by effortlessly talented musicians doing what they're passionate about; Atlas is the best bet you'll have so far this year.
This album is tremendous and such a great next move for Real Estate. Songs like "Talking Backwards," "Horizon," and "Had to Hear" have really affected me way more emotionally than I thought a band like Real Estate ever could.
Wasn't big on this one, mostly bored the hell out of me
I'm such a huge fan of "days" and I can kind of agree here. .maybe I just haven't listen to atlas enough yet or had the opportunity to listen to it under a big oak tree on a summer hazy day yet. .still a good album but certainly not as memorable or solid as "days"
This album lacks passion and stands with a weak backbone. I get the whole live feel of this record, but simply put... this record is straight BORING excluding a few tracks on here. There needs to be harmonies. Preferably 3 part harmonies. Lots of them.