Real Estate has finally waded out of the shallowness of beer-drenched suburbia. While their previous efforts laid the foundations for the dissonant genre of suburban surf rock with flawless instrumentals and gorgeous vocals, the substance in the songwriting has been significantly lacking. But in Atlas, Real Estate injects legitimate meaning into their lyrics—melancholy and introspective, they display a side of the New Jersey group that we have all been missing.
Opener “Had to Hear” sets an upbeat, mellow tone from the initial simple, driving guitar melody omnipresent in the band’s genre. The ethereal instrumental passages underscore the nostalgia flowing through the LP, creating an instantly familiar and welcoming tonal atmosphere.
Though the album’s welcoming nature may seem contradictory given its disheartening themes, Matt Mondanile’s bright guitar passages and frontman Martin Courtney’s voice of silk effectively draw listeners in prior to smoothly and painlessly injecting thoughts of darkness into their minds as though they had always been there, lurking just beyond the reaches of conscious thought.
Courtney’s somber vocals on “How Might I Live” epitomize this anguish as he croons, “How might I live to betray you / How might I live to say you’re not the one I love,” just as the leisurely clean guitar chords and melodies establish a seemingly benign tone.
Mid-album instrumental interlude “April’s Song” further underscores Real Estate’s mastery of non-vocal elements. Though the track features recurring passages that under normal circumstances would grow tiresome, Mondanile introduces a string bend or two at the exact moment where such repetition would otherwise direct the listener to skip the track.
The album doesn’t contain any musical qualities that are extraneous or unsupported. Each song is beyond airtight as the chords, vocals, guitar runs, and percussive elements seamlessly complement each other to elevate Atlas as a whole to higher horizons. As the lyrics and instrumentation blend into a continuous soporific element that envelops the listener in a pensive aural paradise, only one flaw stands out: the LP hardly lasts 37 minutes. Fortunately, mashing the repeat button serves only to further complete Real Estate’s Atlas.
Voice’s Choices: “Talking Backwards,” “How Might I Live”