The Main Thing is the latest offering from New Jersey band Real Estate — a five-piece made up of Martin Courtney (vocals, guitar), Alex Bleeker (bass, vocals), Jackson Pollis (drums), Matt Kallman (keyboards), and Julian Lynch (guitar). Having never before listened to Real Estate, I went into this album blind (or deaf I should say) with no idea of what to expect.
The Main Thing is Real Estate’s fifth full-length release and I noted prior to listening that it had received much critical acclaim. Having said this, the prevailing opinion seemed to be that this album is enjoyable but forgettable; many noted that the album was melancholic but if I’m not going to remember it after listening, is there any point?
The album opens with ‘Friday’, an ultra-chilled track that seems the perfect fit to play through speakers in a dusty old record store. The album continues this trend of guitar melodies which are neither fast-paced nor slow — somewhere achingly in between. Whilst ‘Paper Cup’ enjoys the benefits from the addition of a female voice, the rest of the album sees no such varying relief.
The album features thirteen tracks, but by ‘Falling Down’, the sixth track on the album, it is likely to already be forgotten by most listeners. Sadly, the album does not pick up from here with simply more of the same soothing guitar melodies over gently rolling drum beats. This might appear a pleasant description, but even drying paint appears pleasant sometimes.
‘Also A But’ reminds me of The Magic Gang, if their tracks went nowhere, building up to a chorus that instead of breathing much-needed life into the album, returns to repeating drawn out chords. By this point, I was searching for positives, a standout track or an inspiring lyric, rather than looking for its faults — this sad truth tells you all you need to know about The Main Thing.
The end of the album begins with the eponymous, ‘The Main Thing’. This is clearly where Real Estate perform best on the album; whilst this is a significantly better execution of what the band had been trying on the whole album, simply doing the same thing better isn’t enough to save it.
By final track ‘Brother’, listeners are likely to be found in the land of nod (rather than swaying along to feel-good sounds) as they would with pieces that inspired this album. This isn’t to say listeners wouldn’t have an entertaining time drifting off, but that is still where they would end up.
Upon listening to the album, I returned to some of Real Estate’s earlier works such as It’s Real to see how the band had adapted but sadly the change has been for the worst. The Main Thing is clearly Real Estate’s music now; I have delved into their catalogue but it is Real Estate in a way that has lost its way — now that I understand the band’s most popular sounds, I am even more disappointed in this collection.
I cannot fault the technicality of this album, there is no clear fault in any individual members’ performances and together the band have a coherent sound, but it is no longer enough for a band to simply be technically apt. In the modern realm of music, this album is incredibly dull, disappointing, and would not seem out of place in an office elevator.
My feelings towards this album may seem overly harsh, yet all I ask from an article of music is some inherent energy. This doesn’t mean roaring fast-paced chords nor speaker busting bass, rather a sense of intention within a piece. Yet, this album, whether you seek to praise or critique it, embodies watching the world pass you by. I encourage readers to listen to the album despite its flaws, as it is relaxing, and apt for a lazy Sunday afternoon. However, if it’s excellence you seek, it will not be found here.