For me, Real Estate’s 2011 album, Days, was a grower. What initially sounded like a boring, aimless mess of pretty guitars slowly revealed some fantastic songwriting underneath with repeated listens.
It’s still not a “song album” in the sense that you’re not likely to pick out one track from it and listen to it or recall the melody of a song from the name alone (excluding “It’s Real,” a bit of an outlier on the album and easily one of the best songs from the year it was released). It’s the kind of album where you put the whole thing on, relax, and realize that you actually do know all of the melodies, letting it remain in the back of your mind while not becoming total background music.
Real Estate’s newest album, Atlas, covers the exact same ground. You could easily switch any of the songs from their new album onto Days and no one would know the difference.
Normally, this would be a bad thing for a band, especially considering that the new album isn’t quite as strong as Days was, but for a band like Real Estate, where their entire purpose is to be laid back, it would’ve been a disappointment if they didn’t sound exactly the same. And ultimately, it hasn’t been given time to grow like Days has; given time, it may work its way into my head even more in the future.
The nature of the album makes it hard to say anything truly meaningful about any tracks from it, even if there are obvious highlights. I could say opener “Had to Hear” has some of the albums best guitar lines, but then, all of the songs have great guitar lines — there’s a reason they debuted the song “Crime” with a guitar tab video on YouTube.
I could say “Talking Backwards” was a great choice for a lead single for its melodies, but truthfully they’re not that much stronger than the rest. I could say “April’s Song” strays away from the Real Estate formula as much as they’re going to by adding in some keyboards, but at the end of the day that’s not what makes it a good song.
And so what I will say is this: Atlas is a good album. It’s one that you should give a few listens to before coming to a final conclusion, however. It’s also proof that sometimes, a band can repeat a winning formula without growing stale.
Whether or not you like it, it’s the kind of record that everyone should have in their lives, the one that calms you down without ever boring you. That’s a rare thing, and so while the band may sound unimpressive, the truth is that they’re actually geniuses.