Taking a cue from Arcade Fire’s somewhat unprecedented marketing campaign for Reflektor, Real Estate has also promoted their new album, Atlas, in a similarly distinct way.
Whether it was releasing the second single off the album, “Crime,” as a guitar tutorial video or taking out barely noticeable classified ads in a slew of New York newspapers, including Sunday’s New York Times and the New York Daily News, the five piece from New Jersey unveiled their third studio effort in an innovative way. Though, “effort” doesn’t quite fit, the album excels at showing the band’s effortless yet profound take on surf rock.
The shimmering guitars that open up the lead track “Had to Hear,” sound familiar to the band’s previous releases, but the tone evolves to more serious issues than their whimsical tone would lead on; a theme that continues to be played out through the rest of the tracks. The lyrical carefreeness found on 2011’s Days is swapped for a more grown up, reflective look at what events are unfolding in life.
Front man Martin Courtney has no problem conveying this newly found tone using only a handful of words in a verse at times. This word-sparse, economic writing style gives listeners the ability to absorb his clear delivery. The album’s most triumphant moments are found when this delivery is paired up with Courtney’s love sick pleas on a number of tracks.
Whether he sings, “I had to hear you, just to feel near you” while recounting long-distance relationship woes on “Had to Hear” or details anxiety filled restless nights on “Crime,” these moments feel authentic and accessible in a way few bands can successfully convey. It all leads up to the chorus in “Crime,” as Courtney croons, “I don’t want to die, lonely and uptight. Stay with me / All will be revealed,” powerfully coming through as the climax of the album.
As the album goes on, the instrumental, “April’s Song” (which feels like a cut straight off of Real Estate’s self titled 2009 release) provides time to reflect on the lyrical content of the first three songs over a beautiful rise-and-fall guitar lead. While most songs stylistically follow suit in finding their backbone in one of guitarist Matt Mondanile’s crisp riffs, “The Bend” is the most percussive song on the release with a smooth high hat and snare pattern that provides an extra kick behind the acoustic guitar. “How Might I Live” is the only track that doesn’t quite feel like it fits in, mainly due to it’s slow pace and the fact that Courtney isn’t the one providing vocals on the track.
Despite the changes between songs, the album ties together as a cohesive piece with a common theme and not just a collection of songs.
“I stare at the hands on the clock/I’m still waiting for them to stop/The earliest light is just shinning in/And I’ve no idea where the days been”
These, the closing words of Atlas, take all 10 tracks and summarizes them into the idea the album presents. The idea that that time goes by quickly and change is a constant throughout life, but despite all of the anguish, there is still a shining light of positivity throughout. Real Estate asks the listener to join them for this journey and to do so through a beautifully textured album.
“Had to Hear”
Least Favorite Track
“How Might I Live”