“I’ve got this family, and I feel this responsibility to gild this crazy world,” says Real Estate guitarist and songwriter Martin Courtney. The band have clearly discovered how cathartic and fulfilling it can be to make music that resonates with other people. And the aim to follow a personal path of inspiration, hoping to inspire and encourage that in people around them, is the concept behind this new project.
But while the New Jersey outfit’s fifth studio album touches on familiar ground – that will more than likely resonate with fans – newly sought-out techniques can also be heard. These are found in the even hazier grooves, with richer, more in-depth layering of sounds, while the project’s core references continue to focus around the band’s instantly recognisable blend, inspired by the sounds of Yo La Tengo, Felt and Steely Dan.
More than a decade has passed since their classic project ‘Days’, and seemingly Real Estate felt it was time to take all the experience they have of creating infectious, melodic guitar pop further, dig deeper and push themselves harder than before. The 13 tracks on ‘The Main Thing’ definitely show great personal insight and a fascinating complexity.
Opening track ‘Friday’ introduces the blistering, new project. A soft, quiet and soothing start, moving swiftly and confidently onto the brighter, more upbeat sentiment of ‘Paper Cup’ – a track featuring Sylvan Esso. Tackling the search for what is true and real in life, the track also has a sense of longing and hope.
But pure and sweet atmospherics are not hard to find. “For now enjoy the innocence. I can’t imagine what will be in your earliest memories,” we are told on the mesmeric ‘You’, which is immediately followed by, “We almost succumbed to gravity”. The exploratory and adventurous feel of ‘Silent World’ exhibits a fresh moment while ‘Also a But’ carries a more melancholy, introspective vibe.
Elsewhere, ‘The Main Thing’ and the dreamy, hazy sound of ‘November’ represent bright, melodic moments, while ‘Shallow Sun’ and ‘Falling down’ deliver rich, velvety, comforting guitar lines, with tracks projecting an autumnal warmth. ‘Procession’ is led by a soothing, playfulness, leading up to an even softer landing before ‘Brother’, the final track on the album.
Dreamy but real, hazy but pure and insightful, this project facilitates fresh ambition and explores new ground for Real Estate. And maybe, this record will take them even closer to that elusive ‘main thing’.
Words: Susan Hansen
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