It’s easy to write off Real Estate as simply another manifestation of summery alternative rock, but after giving the band’s new album, Days, more time to sink in, it becomes clear this is a superficial reading of the New Jersey-based rockers.
Sure, the album’s sonic landscape is orchestrated with the hazy bliss of summer in mind — reverb and overlapping guitar lines weave expansive collages that seem born from summer daydreams. These guys clearly like to jam. Yet, even though Days focuses on a summery theme, Real Estate doesn’t necessarily intend to invoke the bliss of the warmer months. There is plenty of unease in the lyrics, and even the rhythmic structure of the songs disrupts any conception that this album is the product of a contented, lazy summer day.
One of the first tracks, “It’s Real,” begins with a stamping drumbeat that evolves into a less regimented tempo with layered guitar lines. This interaction recalls the structure of the other tracks on the album, specifically “Kinder Blumen” and “Three Blocks.” The rhythms initially store tension, then they release it into characteristic serenity and expansiveness. It suggests the music is cathartic — a great deal of angst is conjured up and released.
That angst is especially palpable on “Three Blocks,” as the drowsy depression of a Monday morning is accentuated by the scummy reality of the path that lies outside the safety of a suburban home. This image is followed by lyrics that more accurately mirror Real Estate’s blissful orchestration, as singer Martin Courtney comes to self-realization and liberates the tension.
However, the epiphany doesn’t respect natural barriers: “Endless autumn, under pine trees, in a springtime spent by the sea.” The band couldn’t care less that autumn and spring cannot occur simultaneously. And that’s precisely the aim here — not to care.
Nostalgic themes for a blithe existence arise throughout Days. The opening track, “Easy,” reminisces harmonically about nature and people in a time when “We had it so easy / I would surrender, completely.” On “Green Aisles,” a reflection on that lifestyle sums up the motivation behind Days: “All those wasted miles / All those aimless drives through green aisles / A careless lifestyle / It wasn’t so unwise.”
The New Jersey suburbanites go beyond the warm memories of lighthearted summers past, confronting the accepted “wisdom” that time should be spent productively. They pursue every grown-up kid’s intellectual dream: to show those who labeled their revelry a waste that these experiences aren’t regrettable at all. The last song, “All the Same,” features swaths of wordless jamming — one can’t help but feel the musicians’ pure glee.