Subtly finetuning their sound, Real Estate have delivered a poignant and succinct album that expertly blends sunny guitars with contemplative lyricism
Released 17th March via Domino Records
It’s been three years since New Jersey natives Real Estate released their critically acclaimed third album Atlas — an ode to the anxieties of modern living, nostalgic sentimentality and a wistful yearning to belong that endeared them to audiences as one of the most refreshing voices in contemporary indie music.
Fast forward to 2017 and the five-piece ensemble are back with their latest offering of deliciously melodic dream-pop, In Mind. Sonically, the album is very much in keeping with the woozy reverie of its predecessor, with frontman Martin Courtney’s vocals maintaining the same clarity and pathos that has become an instantly recognisable facet of their work. Paired with their characteristic simple melodies and chiming guitars, audiences unfamiliar with the band’s work could be forgiven for seeing this new collection of songs as the logical successor of its forerunner.
Lyrically, the content of the album strays — albeit minimally — from Atlas. Recalling the dusky hue of twilight, songs like ‘After the Moon’ have a heightened poignancy, recalling the kind of retrospection that only comes with the ascent of night-time. This is evident on lead single ‘Darling’ where the singer bemoans the absence of a loved one: “The night surrenders swiftly/ The moon retreats from site/ The darkness that surrounds me/ The sun cuts like a knife.”
On ‘Stained Glass’, the second promotional single to be released in the run up to In Mind‘s wider release, Courtney muses: “The nights are longer now/ And the days are slowing down/ Looking up at stained glass sky/ And the only color is white”, using the night sky to metaphorise feelings of isolation and introspectivity.
Central to the lyrical content of In Mind — much in keeping with Real Estate’s earlier catalogue — is the duality and oscillation of the concepts of time and space, vocalising that oh-too-familiar feeling of how time can create a dissonance between people and place, and erode feelings of ‘home’ and belonging. This is evident on ‘Stained Glass’ when the band contemplates, “there’s no place I would rather be right now/ I’d love never to leave but I just don’t know how”.
“There will always be a trace/ of this place in me”, Courtney laments on ‘Same Sun’, although the ‘place’ being sung about has irrevocably changed, causing our narrator to question the parameters of time itself when he sings: “When does one thing end/ And the next begin?”
Sentimental, nostalgic and heart-wrenching, In Mind is a clear and concise development of a formula that has stood Real Estate in good stead and will surely have the same emotional effectiveness as their earlier work. Whilst not offering anything radically different to what has gone before it, the album remains a refreshing and engaging addition to contempary indie music that is impossible to ignore.
Bridging the divide between place and time, the album is sure to resonate with audiences who feel a loss when confronted with the contradictions of belonging to a place, when that place can sometimes change beyond our recognition in the blink of an eye. Beautiful in its nuance and succinctness, In Mind is an excellent piece of craftmanship that, regardless of the erosive nature of temporality, will pack a metaphorical punch for years to come.