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Real Estate: Atlas *

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "They're out for guitarbliss, like a lilting pop version of Sonic Youth or Television."

Spin - "'Talking Backwards' has some Byrdsy twang, while 'The Bend' is a samba blues."

CMJ - "Full of inventiveness, the record noticeably tamps the tempos in order to reveal a more intriguing, if less catchy and quirky, melange of melodies that disclose yet another facet from Metronomy's array of sounds."

Paste (magazine) - "Their evolution mirrors Pavement's mid-'90s mellowing, or even R.E.M.'s gradual amble towards clarity a decade prior to that, but Real Estate's progression is unique in just how offhanded and unpremeditated it sounds."

Album Notes

Jersey-bred indie rock golden boys Real Estate arrived in the late 2000s with a subdued approach to guitar rock that stripped away all unnecessary clutter and presented their tuneful songs in a manner as attractive and steadfast as primary colors, spring days, comfort food, or any of life's basic staples. Free of gimmicks, pretense, and artifice, their tunes tapped into the insular, college-aged melancholia of the Clean or Yo La Tengo's soft summer-night pulsations, later moving into a markedly Go-Betweens-steeped phase on their more sophisticated 2011 album, Days. With third full-length Atlas, Real Estate grow even further into the sound they've been spinning for themselves, mellowing more while they become more nuanced in both playing and production. Beginning with "Had to Hear," the band's sound is decidedly signature, based on chiming chords and lilting vocals from songwriter Martin Courtney, lead guitar from Matt Mondanile that wanders between psychedelic curiosity and airy punctuation, and the surefooted rhythm section of drummer Jackson Pollis and bassist Alex Bleeker. All these elements feel increasingly familiar and confident. Their songs have always resided somewhere between head-in-the-clouds lightheartedness and day-dreamy nostalgia, but the ten songs that make up Atlas seem more mature, more deliberate, and lacking some of the carefree naiveté of earlier work. "Past Lives" ruminates on the strange feelings of returning to the neighborhood streets where the narrator spent his youth, while "Crime" relates a relationship in peril to something more harrowing and malicious. The upbeat "Talking Backwards" folds some of the nostalgic melancholia into a gorgeously produced pop song about long-distance communication breakdowns as bright and straightforward as Luna in their prime. The album was recorded in part at Wilco's Chicago studio the Loft, and the production is less hazy and more suited to the band's increasingly clear-headed melodies and expanded sounds, filled out with understated organ and keys from Matt Kallman this time around. Even seemingly buffering tracks like the Mondanile-penned instrumental "April's Song" (more in line with his solo compositions for Ducktails) and the Yo La Tengo/Galaxie 500-modeled "How Might I Live," sung by bassist Bleeker, seem to have a considered place in the album's flow. The songs float by quickly, not giving all of their secrets away at first listen. As Real Estate continue to grow into their own vision of pop, they take their place in a history of classic American indie bands, falling naturally in line behind the groups that influenced them as they add to the conversation with each subsequent album. ~ Fred Thomas



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