Domino, 2011

New Jersey’s four-piece Real Estate made some real waves with their self-titled debut album, a concise gem of a record filled with bright indie jangle pop rock songs. Less than two years later, they’re back with another set of ten brief songs, an almost identical LP in regards to length, but quite different thematically.

Both of Real Estate’s albums were released in the fall, but Days is the first to really sound like an autumn record. The songs are glazed with garage rock production, heavy on the echos, and with a melancholy bent. Just as melodic, if not more, than on their self-titled debut, but with a tendency for sweeping choruses and instrumental-heavy tracks. Each cut stands alone by itself really well, and works even better as an album.

Think Belle & Sebastian at their simplest, or Rogue Wave at their quietest. “Easy” opens the album with restrained spunk, a very pleasant melody wrapped around slightly gloomy guitars and chords that vary from the confident to cautious in a matter of seconds. “Green Aisles” follows suit with a slower tempo and plenty of instrumental filler. The construction of each of the songs would be fairly repetitious (jangle guitars, drums, repeat) if Real Estate hadn’t been so good at nailing the melody and the ethereal vocals. Martin Courtney’s gentle treatment of the lead vocals blends in seamlessly with the music and is easy to lose in the mix without focusing in on them.

“It’s Real” is about as catchy and spirited as the album gets before retreating into another introspective cut, “Kinder Blumen”. There’s a lot of subtle charm to the album, such as “Younger Than Yesterday”, a laid-back nod towards mellow 90’s alt-rock, and “Wonder Years”, a delightful little folk tune (remember the Belle & Sebastian comparison?) complete with do-do-do-do chorus and layered harmonies. Real Estate closes the LP with “All The Same” which eventually breaks down into a mini jam before finally sputtering out.

The extra creativity on this final song could have been useful throughout more of the album, as I’m sure some listeners will tire of the band’s narrow musical palette, but it also caps off an otherwise flighty album with a seven minute instrumental flourish, and is a welcome twist to the norm. Where Real Estate really shine is their ability to craft sweet, simple songs underneath a moody, yet gorgeous, shell. This more than trumps the lack of variety, it makes it a non-issue, and should ensure Real Estate’s sophomore record will have a place amongst 2011’s best.