Real Estate’s “Atlas” is stand-out surf-rock

Courtesy of Mexican Summer
Courtesy of Mexican Summer

Real Estate has never been a band to step beyond its self-imposed borders. Since its debut, the band has had its feet pressed firmly into the sand of the chill, psychedelic and carefree surf-rock it has become known for. On the latest album, “Atlas,” the band reaches its full maturity, providing deeper lyrical content and refining its signature rock-daze sound.

Real Estate’s coming-of-age becomes apparent on the album’s opener, “Had To Hear.” Starting off almost like any other Real Estate song would, with elegant and relaxing guitar melodies and cheery drumming, “Had To Hear” really sets in as soon as lead vocalist Martin Courtney begins to sing. With a slightly melancholy and nostalgic tone in his voice and lyrics, Courtney breathes life into the song, bringing listeners closer into his personal life. “I had to hear you just to feel near you / I know it’s not true / But it’s been so long,” the singer passionately croons, almost as if he’s speaking directly to you. While Courtney’s lyrical content on previous albums felt vague and out of focus at times, his verses on “Had To Hear” and all throughout “Atlas” are more down to earth, which helps listeners connect to the songs.

The brilliance of “Atlas” is in the band’s precise instrumentation selection. Real Estate utilizes almost neutral chord progressions and melodies, keeping the same lighthearted and dream-like sound, while also blending beautifully with the tone of Courtney’s reinvigorating lyricism. This sounds like a step in a different direction for Real Estate, and their aged-yet-fresh sound is apparent in “The Bend.” The familiar tropical sounds of the song’s intro and verses take note of Courtney’s relaxed singing. Once the song reaches the chorus, its warm and euphoric resonance goes cold, as his imagery and the overall vibe grows sadder. “‘Cause it’s so hard to feel / They control you,” Courtney chants over intimate guitar melodies. The neutrality of the chords makes his vocals sound edgier and melancholy, while having a feel-good vibe at the same time.

The culmination of Real Estate’s newfound maturity is demonstrated on the album’s standout track, “Crime.” Staying true to its surf-rock roots, it is here where the band mixes classic melodies and simple lyrics with unforgettable rhythms and deeper meanings. As soon as the track begins, listeners are treated to upbeat guitar chords and endearing drumming, similar in sound to past songs like “It’s Real.” The song becomes even more enticing once Courtney begins to sing: “Stay with me / All will be revealed.” Lead guitarist Matt Mondanile plays away, giving an astonishing guitar solo near the song’s finish. Courtney’s effortless yet complex lyricism, mixed with Mondanile’s rhythmically perfect guitar melodies, allows listeners to feel completely lost in the music.

“Atlas” is Real Estate’s most endearing and profound album to date. If you have listened to Real Estate’s music before, you will not find any major changes on “Atlas,” but the beauty of the album is in the band’s attention to detail. Real Estate is steadily becoming a more sonically connected band with deeper, more personal messages. This is the album that all Real Estate fans have been waiting for, and if you have never heard of the band, “Atlas” might just make you a fan.

Rating: 4 stars

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