Real Estate (Woodsist, 2009)
For: Yo La Tengo, The Clientele, early The Sea and Cake
Byline: “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” Yes, thank you. I’ll have another.
How far back does nostalgia go? I guess a better question might be, how short back can nostalgia go? Real Estate’s lovely sun-soaked melodies and relaxing grooves take me back to a time... oh that time... four months ago. That’s right: I miss you, July. I miss being warm in your arms. I miss the road trips. I miss you combing my hair with your gentle winds, the carefree adventurism I feel on your stretches of open road. The sand between my toes, and the smell of the ocean. You miss it too, don’t you? Surely, the cold has its charms. But it’s just that it’s so freaking cold. Real Estate is the closest thing you’ll get to summer on your freezing wait for the bus to work on a Monday morning. It’ll transform that sip of coffee into a gulp of ice cold beer in a heartbeat. Close your eyes and you’re there. November? Forget about it.
Real Estate’s dedication to the summer months is apparent within the first minute of opener “Atlantic City.” It’s an instrumental piece that sways along with a predictable chord progression that tacks on some tropical/latin percussion grooves. It sort of seals the deal - the only thing missing is steel drums, which comes in the form of a guitar melody that sweeps in with a silvery, metallic tone. Much of the record has this overall feel - even “Snow Days,” which actually sounds like an oxymoron on an album otherwise indebted heavily to the hammock. Lots of reverb, lots of open washes, echoes, and tinny timbres make for a reflective surface. Listening to Real Estate is almost like watching the sun shine off the ocean; a glimmering, emotive dance of light.
When I say “predictable,” I mean that in the best way possible, if that’s even possible. Indeed, much of Real Estate’s song bank sounds suspiciously familiar. The group comes dangerously close to ripping off Yo La Tengo on at least a couple of occasions, especially on “Rock the Beach.” But given the preciseness of delivery, the swelling builds of guitars laying improvised lines gently on top of one another in a colorful wash makes it excusable. After all, Real Estate’s subtly psychedelic meanderings come at least close to some of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out’s best moments. The chord progressions are all so simple, yet strongly constructed and stable. Melodies are nearly built-in, and the songs roll out of the shimmering guitars in harmonized pentatonic fashion like on “Fake Blues,” a song based primarily around one basic chord and scale.The same could be said for “Suburban Beverage,” which combines a meditative bass line and a gently pawed guitar for a floating groove. It functions as a light and feathery bed for the song’s hook to relax on: “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” Getting lost in such a euphoric moment makes it easy for the song’s six minutes to fly by as crescendos and climaxes come and go without ever being overbearing.
Despite my attempt at a detailed analysis of the music above, in reality, the band requires little to no real thinking or effort on the part of the listener at all. Real Estate simply plays what you want to hear, exactly when you want to hear it. It’s a truly liberating record for indie rock. It’s begging us to forget all those weird tunings and jazzy chord voicings, those genre-bending, politically charged samples being used or the math-y time signature shifts. The term “KISS,” just like Real Estate, is perfect mantra for the summer months. Beer. Sun. Fun. Keep it simple, stupid. Thank you, Real Estate, for reminding us.