Subtle new inventions in both instrumentation, lyricism and production are what listeners might look forward to on Real Estate’s latest effort, ‘In Mind’. Album opener and lead single ‘darling’ opens with new member Matt Kallman’s sleepy synth, as it crescendo’s into a gorgeously delicate and shimmering guitar riff, that tumbles across the songs entirety. This new instrumentation rears its head in varying guises and textures throughout the album; a welcome addition to a group belonging to a genre recently criticised for being too effete and languid.
Their classic ‘laidbackness’ is maintained, and one can’t help but imagine how static this album might sound without the addition of Matt Kallman’s keyboard playing, and Julian Lynch’s texturally gritty and at times psychedelic lead guitar work (see ‘Serve the Song’).
Lead singer Martin Courtney’s strengths prove to be his weaknesses – a lusciously bland singing style paired with intriguing lyrics.
Courtney’s rhythm playing is brilliant. See the verse guitar on ‘Stained Glass’, pay close attention to the guitar overdubs towards the songs fadeout (something acoustically akin to a harpsichord emerges out of guitar layering). ‘After the Moon’ is melodically and lyrically gorgeous: ‘daydream the whole night through, trust me, the moon will abandon you. Over and over you turn that same key, trying to dream a dream for me. Just let the movie play out in your head…’.
Bassist Alex Bleeker’s contribution to the album is fruit from a more optimistic branch than on previous records. On previous albums ‘Days’ and ‘Atlas’ Bleeker sung of guilt and love, but here embodies a folksy optimism, singing ‘it’s a time to be humble, a time to be free, it’s a time to raise our voices loud and not go quietly, as this time marches on into great uncertainty, I have music all around me bringing timeless melody’. This contribution contrasts both lyrically and musically to the rest of the record, which is laidback, and atmospheric compared to Bleeker’s happy-go-lucky, sanguine and reassuring worldview that seems to be handpicked straight out of a 1965 hippy’s handbook (I mean this in the best possible way).
The temperate and restrained disposition of Real Estate is often interpreted widely as a mirroring of a defect in the genre of indie-rock at large. Their music is pleasant and agreeable, requiring an acute ear in order to gauge specific emotional realities in each song, but this isn’t bad. I enjoy the band immensely, and although this record may be partially underwhelming it is also a contemplative and relaxing listen, created miles away from the strident martyrdom of more politically minded artists. There is a place for bands like Real Estate and that’s in the solace of the pensive night, in the room of the every-person, removed from life’s general turmoils.