Friday, April 8, 2011

Album Review: Real Estate - Real Estate

Real Estate: Real Estate
[Woodsist 2009]


Does New Jersey truly suck? Admittedly, I've only been on the excellent, highly abridged tour: the picturesque beaches of Cape May, the nice parts of Camden County that are far cries from actual Camden, the affluent suburbia of North Jersey, and not-unpleasant excursions through said region's more dilapidated, less Kodak-worthy cities on the way to New York. The state has its haters for its undoubtedly shitty aspects, but you will nevertheless find plenty of natives with boisterous, non-ironic pride for the Garden State.

Lo-fi surf rockers Real Estate are patriotic Jersey boys, but absolutely not in the Bruce Springsteen way. Their self-titled debut is a seamless blend of mellow psychedelic folk, surf pop, and alternative country that whispers odes to the home state and the imagery of chilled out fun in the sun. "Carry me back to sweet Jersey, back to where I long to be" sings Martin Courtney, whose everyman vocals are usually buried in the mix, but the emotional resonations of his words make up for the physical distance of his voice. The overall effect is not too dissimilar from James Mercer's layered croon on Oh, Inverted World. The suburban imagery is more evoked sonically through patient, looped rhythms and warm lo-fi glow.

Resting on Courtney's reserved singing are airy guitar riffs that hit decidedly country tones (Read: the second half melody of opener "Beach Comber" will hook you on these guys). But as informed by CCR (at their slowest) and outdoorsy folk as Real Estate may be, it is still a sound that lives on the Jersey Shore. The jangly guitar chords and psychedelic underpinnings flesh out the band's mellow, summertime aesthetic. "Atlantic City" is an instrumental, slow motion hang ten that's far prettier than its namesake, and "Let's Rock the Beach" doesn't so much rock it as it puts on a blissed out liquid light show for the beachcombers. Only closer "Snow Day" breaks seasonal rank, serving sing-along folk and softly soaring vocals not far removed from Robin Pecknold and Fleet Foxes.

As much as the tunes stick, you may realize, once broken from trance, how effortless and unassuming Real Estate really sounds. The post-college members of the band seem to speak to a time when summer actually meant trips to the beach and relaxation before another school year, not actual jobs and actual stress. It's not all sunglasses and above-ground pools, but damn if it isn’t a beautiful life created in Real Estate. Courtesy of sweet Jersey.

"Beach Comber":