Martin Courtney has made it his job to unearth the sentiment buried in totems of the past. The house you grew up in. Bleary-eyed teenage haunts. A shady lane. All are fodder for Courtney on his quest to orient himself in time, and make sense of, well, getting older.
Having recently withdrawn from NYC’s bustling metropolis to settle in upstate New York with his young family, Courtney’s fixation with the passage of time developed into a full-on thematic fulcrum for 2014’s ‘Atlas’, a graceful mastery of the pastoral jangle-rock that made waves on breakthrough record ‘Days’.
Real Estate now return with a fresh canvas of gentle pastel reveries on ‘In Mind’, their fourth full-length LP, and first without former guitarist and Ducktails founder Matt Mondanile.
Given Mondanile’s considerable influence, the rapid assimilation of successor Julian Lynch is buoyed by the band’s many melodic and symbolic constants — elemental motifs remain central throughout ‘In Mind’: the moon, the sun, rivers and rain and even finches contribute to the construction of Real Estate’s customarily soft-focus style of digging in and around the fertile terrain of adolescence.
In turn, it doesn’t take long for Lynch to make his presence felt. ‘Serve The Song’ is stretched out by a quick jam-band detour, and ‘Two Arrows’ starts innocently before taking flight on the back of a head-spinning guitar and organ melee. Both tracks brandish refreshingly unkempt, jagged edges that loom starkly over Real Estate’s catalogue of clean-cut dream pop, which is more recognisable from the textured riffs scattered across ‘Holding Pattern’ and lead-single ‘Darling’, with the video for the latter boasting the company of an unruly stallion, hilariously offsetting Courtney’s million-mile stares and brooding lyrics.
Credit is also due for the placid piano dreamscape that leads into closing cut ‘Saturday’, while Courtney emerges with a rather momentous bit of songwriting on ‘Same Sun’, using punctuation to describe the happy-sad ambivalence of youthfulness: “When does one thing ever end, and the next begin? / Everyday back then felt like a hyphen”.
It’s one of only a handful of moments on the album that shares the same gripping immediacy as ‘Had To Hear’ or ‘Crime’, two gems that embody the raw urgency of ‘Atlas’. ‘In Mind’, for all its charms and willingness to explore, mostly opts to bask in the lingering afterglow of Real Estate’s first truly outstanding record.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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