IN MIND by Real Estate
Genre: Jangle Pop, Dream Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Darling,” “Serve The Song,” “Stained Glass,” “After The Moon”
What much is there to say about Real Estate? They’re a band whose music speaks for itself, their appeal truly boiling down to nothing more than earnest and simple songwriting. Martin Courtney’s uncontrived lyricism, paired with the band’s inoffensive jangle pop instrumentation makes for music that has lasting and widespread appeal across most—if not all—pairs of ears it encounters. However, with a group so eager to indulge in their idyllic soft rock style, it seems that Real Estate run the risk of becoming predictable. Sure, they’ve cruised to the top of the indie strata over their eight years together, but the band’s unwillingness to stray from its coined “Yacht Rock” sound begs the question as to whether or not they can stick around for much longer without repeating themselves. Real Estate’s fourth album, IN MIND, is the band’s 45 minute answer to that question, and the take-away from it is an unconvincing, but pleasant, “maybe.”
The opening track and lead single “Darling” is a saccharine love song, glued together from the same kind of shimmering guitar lines and breathy vocals that make up the rest of Real Estate’s discography. Though a familiar sound, “Darling” strongly picks up where 2014’s ATLAS left off, suggesting that despite guitarist Matt Mondanile’s departure from the band, Martin Courtney’s songwriting will forever be the foundation upon which Real Estate functions. Of course there’s nothing wrong with a band retaining their musical identity from album to album, but in the case of IN MIND, the taste of classic Real Estate eventually grows stale.
“Serve The Song” demonstrates the sense of variety that Real Estate can achieve when they experiment and tinker with tone, as a distorted guitar motif is introduced but quickly abandoned for more pristine and, unfortunately, less green pastures. While the energy of the opening is later returned to, the idea feels improperly utilized, as it could have been the backbone of a much more exhilarating song. While still a leisurely listen, this song doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the bunch, which unfortunately, becomes the problem with the entire bunch.
While entirely listenable and enjoyable, Real Estate fails to provide many memorable moments. Songs begin to blend together. You start questioning your own sanity. Did I already hear this song? No, you’re on track 11, it’s just that one-10 sound like doppelgangers. Of course this is an exaggeration, but the album eventually becomes frustrating in how lackluster and unconvincing the songs become. The final track “Saturday” actually begins with a fanciful and morose piano piece that shows promise in terms of experimentation. Then a minute later, it launches into the same “130 BPM jangly guitar strumming accompanied by high tenor vocals” formula that’s been used for the past 10 songs. Sure, Real Estate’s sound is intentionally hypnotic and relaxing, but at some point it becomes so disengaging that the album can’t be considered anything more than nice background music.
Ultimately, Real Estate is a band that cannot afford to repeat itself. As talented of a songwriter as Martin Courtney is, the band has proved that it does not have enough tricks up its sleeve to captivate and stimulate in the same way their records prior have. Does this make IN MIND bad? Absolutely not. Real Estate have set a high bar for themselves, and there are many worthwhile moments on this record. However, when comparing IN MIND to the likes of ATLAS or DAYS, it falls short in terms of bringing anything innovative or interesting to the table.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend