New Jersey has produced some terrific music in years past. I mean, come on: Frank Sinatra, George Clinton, The Boss, Yo La Tengo, Bon Jovi… Alright, maybe not the Bon Jovi part, though I do freely admit to feeling the urge to sing along whenever “It’s My Life” comes across the airwaves. Don’t judge. But out of all those bands, Yo La Tengo is probably the most similar to Real Estate, and even that comparison is a stretch.
“Beach Comber”, the opening track on Real Estate’s self-titled debut, serves as a perfect introduction to the band’s surprising restraint and easy-go-lucky rhythm. Their music uses a feeling of youthful carelessness not just as a sonic template, but as a common theme that runs throughout the album. Front man Martin Courtney exhibits a thoughtful, sincere singing style, his voice humbly meshing with the hushed, playful tones.
For a relatively new band, Real Estate exude confidence. Rather than giving in to the expectations of the indie-pop-hungry masses, they let their songs marinate in melody and build to sonic heights normally absent from straightforward pop. It would be easy for them to create catchy 3-minute songs, but the fact that they don’t helps to set them apart from the rest of the buzz band pack. There is no sense of anxiousness to their music, nor do they sacrifice musical integrity for the sake of more immediate success.
The lo-fi production adds to the charm of songs like the Walkmen-esque “Black Lake”, which employs echoing vocals and weeping guitar to lull the listener into a dreamy haze. That sense of atmosphere bleeds into “Atlantic City”, a brief song that shows off the band’s instrumental dexterity. Real Estate really catch their stride on “Suburban Beverage”, a song that washes away the tangential groove of its “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” mantra with a melodic outro.
The band also makes waves with its song titles, at least half of which make reference to water, such as “Green River” (not a CCR cover), “Black Lake”, and “Let’s Rock the Beach”. Upon hearing the songs, the bizarre water fixation makes sense; the band pulls off each track with sincerity and cleverness, and their songs maintain a classic feel reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Byrds.
At their core, Real Estate are a jam band whose songs evoke a longing to escape New Jersey’s suburban trappings. Their sun-drenched debut provides a welcome early thaw to the approaching winter, and will have you rifling through your pantry to find that leftover margarita mix from last July.