The world is in a weird, scary place. Everything is changing but progression is not a given. Luckily bands like American five-piece Real Estate are still kicking around. Their fourth LP ‘In Mind’ is a humble, comforting listen; a reminder that life can still be wholesome and simple.
‘In Mind’ was written in Beacon, a gorgeous, quaint town in upstate New York. The charm of a sleepy, green and humble town pervades the record. It’s there in the subtle reverb, the unassuming vocals of frontman Martin Courtney and the minimal use of what the band often refers to as “gimmicks”.
But having said that, though a quietly ambitious record, it is nevertheless a finely tuned and intricate record that tosses and turns between boredom and content; in craving change but also embracing circumstances; essentially adulthood.
Their previous record ‘Atlas’ also explored the theme of change; Courtney was about to become a Father, while bassist Alex Beeker had relocated to Los Angeles. With ‘In Mind’ time is featured in every song; especially of moving forward without looking back. In ‘Same Sun’ Courtney asks, “Where does one thing ever end and the next begin? I do not wish to retrace the steps I’ve taken / All that matters now is where I’m going.”
Change has also come in the form of Julian Lynch, long time friend of the band and the new guitarist, replacing founding-member Matt Mondanile. Lynch has brought an edgier, psych sound to the band’s typically wholesome melodies. ‘Two Arrows’ sees the band spiral out into a riveting six-minute coda — the closest thing to a jam the band have recorded.
But while the band welcome a new member, and cautiously tread further into the production pool, Real Estate haven’t pushed the boundaries by much. Many of the songs on ‘In Mind’ could easily slip into ‘Atlas’. But sometimes upheaval is just not necessary. If the music is still great, and the band still enjoys it, what’s the big deal in reinventing your sound?
For long time fans ‘In Mind’ will likely be a relief. The last thing people need in their complex, every-changing lives is for their favourite band to pick up a new sound. But for others, ‘In Mind’ might come off as a repetitive, ennui album. The band sings so much about moving forward, it’s ironic that their sound doesn’t satisfy their itch.
Who can blame them though, humans are saddled with this tragic dichotomy of wanting everything to change but also everything to stay the same.
Listening to ‘In Mind’ is like a ritual that grounds but also nudges you slightly forward. It’s a gorgeous album, charming in it’s simplicity but made nuanced with an aura that is impossible to recreate. Real Estate really grasp that the idea of…what’s that saying again, oh yeah, keep it simple stupid.
‘In Mind’ is avaialbel now through Domino Records.
author: Natalia Morawski