Suburban indie-rockers Real Estate clean up their breezy sound with Days.Written by Arielle Sallai
13 October 2011
"All these wasted miles, all those aimless drives,” drones Martin Courtney on the chorus of “Green Aisles,” a standout track off Real Estate’s sophomore effort, Days. The lyric represents the New Jersey band well: Bored, nostalgic and a little bit sad, like a suburban 16-year-old driving nowhere for the first time.
Sonically, their latest doesn’t stray far from the formula they adopted on their self-titled debut — meandering guitar lines layered over lazy drums and wistful lyrics — though Courtney’s songwriting is tighter, and the rest of the band follows suit.
The sound quality is amped up thanks to Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus). Where they once sounded like they were playing underwater, the band now comes across surprisingly polished. This newfound gloss is most notable on “Municipality,” as guitarist Matt Mondanile’s signature jangliness gets refined into a hook Weezer might have played back in 1994.
But Real Estate is not an exciting band. Many of their tracks have no vocals at all. And when they do, they’re subdued — perhaps an aesthetic choice or, more likely, a reflection of Courtney’s lack of confidence as a vocalist. Plus, lyrics or not, the songs wallow more than they soar.
But it’s precisely this wallowing that makes Days the perfect post-summer listen. There are tracks like the stellar “Wonder Years,” which evolves from wistful, indie-rock (à la fellow Jersey natives Yo La Tengo) to Beach Boys-style “do-do-do’s” — combining two generations and two seasons of bored adolescents into one lovelorn ditty that flawlessly captures the quiet discontent, doubt and monotony of being young and self-absorbed.