Released 3rd March, 2014
Atlas is a model of consistency from a band who have carved a creative nook and are perfectly happy to sit in it. It’s neither a leap forward nor a step backward, but then that’s one of the endearing qualities of this band: Real Estate are in no rush to get anywhere new. In an age where so much new music is crying out for your attention lest it be cast aside in the endless echelons of Spotify (or whatever the kids are using now), it’s reassuring that Real Estate are content to sit back and hone their craft. They’re unlikely to gain any new fans from this record, but their old fans will fall further in love.
The real beauty lies in how effortless the whole thing sounds, despite its intricate detail. Their blissed out, jangling guitar sound is complimented by Martin Courtney’s sighed, trouble-free vocals. It requires more patience than last album Days, where most of the songs were immediately catchy enough to be used as ‘Made In Chelsea’ background music (which they were). It may not be until the 4th or 5th listen that everything seems to clicks into place, but it’s all the more rewarding as the subtler melodies gradually unfurl with each listen. Atlas comes under the category of ‘a grower not a shower’ (in strictly musical terms).
Courtney sings of the stars at night, horizons, lost loves and sprawling landscapes. All very vague and dreamy, but it’s a wistful fantasy that you can crawl inside and cosy yourself in. Like all of their music, the album has a nostalgic tone that anyone can relate to.
Singling out songs as highlights is an unnecessary exercise given the total consistency of the songs as a full set, which is how it should be heard. There are no standout tracks, but that’s because they’re all very, very good. ‘How Might I Live’ however does stick out like a sore thumb because it’s the only song written and sung by Alex Bleeker, and plays out like a folk ditty in contrast to the guitar tapestries filling out the rest of the album.
Choruses are kept modest and tasteful, and they never raise the noise levels, so as not to wake the neighbours. Some listeners might find that it lacks a bit of bite. What I’ll say is that if you consume records the same way you consume fast food, you may want to give this one a miss. For those who enjoy intimate, considered music that’s more interested in tickling your senses than blasting your socks off, this is a rare treat.