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  • Atlas
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4.4 out of 5 stars79
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on March 7, 2014
You know I like apathy, discontent, and an overall general malaise in my art fix like the next guy. And a bit of snarky condescension always makes a song go down a bit rougher, yet satisfyingly cold as well. I mean really, wouldn't you rather have disconnected sarcasm permeating the tunes you pump into your earholes through those tiny earbuds instead of honesty? Really? You would? Oh, okay. Then you might want to do something else for the rest of this review. You see, I've listened to Real Estate's new album Atlas several times this week. I've spun it on the turntable every night. My son has played with the dog in the living room to it, flipping the record himself so he could keep that jangly soundtrack to the everyday things we take for granted spinning. I've listened to "April's Song" as I cooked dinner more times than I'd like to say. "Had To Hear" has been the backdrop of more than one conversation about how the work day went and what homework was left to do. "Talking Backwards" has been marveled at on both my rocker/recliner and sectional couch. What I'm saying here is that Atlas is an album that's already "lived-in". It's one of those albums that's like some amazing old corduroy blazer you find at the Salvation Army that you can feel the history it's seen. Real Estate have made an album that needs no preparation before putting it on. It's an old friend that never needs warming up to. Atlas is one of the breeziest, laid back, and effortlessly beautiful albums you'll likely hear this year.

Martin Courtney has a voice that is simple and plainspoken. He delivers lyrics about longing, lamenting yesterday, and being content with today as if he's in conversation with an old friend. There's no melodramatic delivery. Just a sligthly stoned sleepiness that comes with long drives back home for holiday or staying up till 2am drinking coffee with a long lost friend in a 24 hour diner down by the piers. Matt Mondanile has turned his crystalline jangly guitar work into a true art form. There's nothing flashy about what he does, yet there's something almost transcendent in the lines he plays on "Crime", and the country-ish sway of "Primitive". Alex Bleeker adds an almost orchestral touch to his rolling bass lines. Both reminiscent of Nashville swing and Philly soul. Jackson Pollis lays a steady beat throughout Atlas and newest member Matt Kallman fills the already lush sound with keys. With this lineup Real Estate has become this very tight band that shows some road worn muscle on this album. There aren't any major changes in sound and style from 2011s excellent Days; just a honed-in concentration with the songs. The tunes are as long as they need to be. Nothing more or nothing less. And the songs are the best these New Jersey guys have penned. It helps that both Mondanile and Bleeker both have their own musical projects outside the Real Estate fold. I think this allows the band to concentrate solely on Real Estate, and not a "who gets what credit" sort of ego trip. So songs like "The Bend", "Horizon", "How I Might Live", and "Navigator" can be as simple yet perfect as they can be.

With bands like Real Estate where members have other things going on outside the band I get worried that those other projects will take precedent over the main gig. And especially with Real Estate I worry an album like Atlas could be their last. I wonder to myself how they can do better than this jangly little wonder of an album? I mean, if you were gonna call it quits this would be the album you'd want people to remember you for.

It's perfect. In every way.
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on March 4, 2014
Anyone familiar with Real Estate's sound should know what to expect: jangly guitars, smooth mid-range vocals, and lyrics that resonate a pining for a simpler life. With Atlas, Real Estate pick up where they left off with Days but this time the themes are explored more deeply. With Martin Courtney now married, the focus on Atlas shifts slightly from Real Estate's past repertoire; on this record, Martin and the band are very much rooted in the present.

Had To Hear – A nice little lead riff leads in a song that recalls the debut album but through the clean production lens of Days. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Past Lives - Arguably the most Yo La Tengo-esque track on the album, a warm 70's keyboard and ride cymbal keep tempo as Martin laments over memories of the long-lost suburbs, in keeping with Real Estate tradition.

Talking Backwards - It's obvious why this song was chosen as the single. The fastest, most uptempo track of the bunch, Talking Backwards is an instant classic and shows how much the band has grown in the last year.

April's Song - An instrumental that sounds like montage music for a bunch of people having a good time on a road trip. This song will find its place on many mix CDs to come. Blissful, hazy perfection.

The Bend - The background sounds like a chorus of crickets giving this track major nighttime vibes. Easily the most introspective track on the album.

Crime - Reminiscent of that early-90's hit "Big Me" by Foo Fighters. Intricate riffs and pleasant echoey chords abound. Long live the electric guitar.

Primitive – This song could very possibly be the next single. A bit more melancholy than their usual fare but when the chorus rolls around, it's such a sweet relief.

How Might I Live - Was this song recorded in 1972? Everything about this song smacks of the era's nature-obsessed folk rock (in the best way possible, of course) with Bleeker's twangy voice taking center stage.

Horizon – Fresh off the down-South folkiness of the last track, Horizon retains a very western folk guitar and bass interplay that complement the vocals nicely with pastoral lyrics that tie the whole thing together.

Navigator - The chorus breathes and really let's the lyrics sink in. The tableau is one of minute beauty. "Cross the kitchen floor / steal out the back door / past the monument / I'll meet you where the pavement ends." Like a short story by Raymond Carver, this song isn't so much about what is said but rather what has been left unsaid.

Despite the fact that Real Estate's guitar playing will always sound wistful and classic in a way very few bands can pull off, Atlas seems to shy away from the overtly nostalgic intentions of Days, instead focusing on a new chapter of life; one fraught with miscommunication (Talking Backwards), occasional regression (Past Lives), and reluctantly forging a path into adulthood (Crime). As Real Estate continues to hone in on their sound, the production only grows more lush and the songs more meaningful. We'll be hearing from the guys for a long, long time.
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on March 6, 2014
I've been soul searching for a month looking for good records which is hard to come by these days, but here comes "Real Estate" with their album called "Atlas" another fine summer tunes (even though it's not yet) since "All Your Summer Songs" by Saturday Looks Good to Me, "Album" by the Girls or "Fleet Foxes" by the Fleet Foxes. To be honest this is the first time I heard about Real Estate and oh boy.. they are a wonderful band. They experiment sounds weird enough to be catchy. There is a certain nostalgia in their songs especially the track "Taking Backwards" reminds me of psychedelic tunes by "The Faces" This album is lit with too much sunshine it spills on my waiting ears, it's also uplifting perfect after you listen one of those Marilyn Manson albums. After all this kind of album makes the music alive nowadays.
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on May 16, 2014
This is a great, great album. The vinyl pressing is very nice. It is flat, silent and mastered properly. The music takes me back to Lloyd Cole, early REM, Felt, and the Stone Roses. Needless to say you will really enjoy this album.
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on April 7, 2014
Bands usually have a creative arc, starting tentatively and building confidence until reaching a creative climax. Real Estate is following that path. Showing great promise on Days with moments of shear genius like "Green Aisles", they've finally put it all together on their third record, Atlas. A casual listen might lead you to think this to be background music, but the songs are deceptive in their simplicity. Highlights include the opening song "Had to Hear", the incredibly catchy "Crime" and the closing "Navigator", but it's hard to find a song you won't want to put on repeat for an hour. Beautiful and captivating.
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on July 12, 2014
Pleasant stuff, in a tasteful package. The production has nice dreamy tones. Late to "Days" but I prefer the cleaner sound on this release. Perhaps it's my monitors, but I prefer a very slight bump up on the highs, though on shrill headphones the drumming might drive you crazy.

Later... the album is growing on me, but I don't seem to finish the album. I love the 1st half. It might be fun if they could get Eno or friends to produce as they eventually expand their sound, though Eno and friends haven't always reached this level of audio clarity. I'm not sure how deep the lyrics go; I'm still in the toddler stage with this band.
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on January 10, 2015
Where do I begin with this album...It is one of the most shockingly great albums I've stumbled upon. The sound of this album compared to Real Estate's previous efforts shows a heightening level of musicianship. It's clear in this album that the band is coming together more and more with each album and this album hits the nail on the head with what makes a great album. It's consistent, natural, smooth, precise, nostalgic, emotive and so sincere. There are so many beautiful subtleties within 'Atlas' that allow for repeated listens. I love this album so much. Play this album any time you wish to feel calm and enjoy your surroundings. It's such a gem.
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Listening to Atlas, which I like better than their very good previous album, I thought of the amazing mixing job Stephen Street did on Morrissey's Viva Hate. The melodic guitars on Atlas are complemented by a very nice mix, which results in a fine, soothing ambient landscape.

I like all the songs except two, tracks 8 and 9, which leave me lukewarm. But overall this is an A album. All the songs seem cut from the same fabric.

If you like this jangling guitar sound, you might check out the Trashcan Sinatras' Cake and I've Seen Everything albums and The Sundays' Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.
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on April 25, 2014
Although Real Estate's music exists squarely in the here and now, its jangly rhythm guitars and mellowish, conversational vocals harken back to the golden age of naval gazing UK pop--the sort of stuff that labels like Postcard and bands like The Field Mice did so well. What sets "Atlas" apart are the well-crafted melodies and an endless supply of really great if understated lead guitar lines that shimmer and shine and bubble like a stream gently but quickly flowing over rocks on a sunny spring day. The result is a nearly-perfect late-spring, early summer record.
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on April 7, 2014
If you close your eyes and listen to this cd it makes you think of throwing the windows open on the first nice day of spring. The warm sun, still a cool crisp bite to the air, a quiet breeze and birds singing...ok a little to dramatic? It is a wonderfully melodic and uplifting selection of music. If you are looking to "rock out" look elsewhere, if you want something easy to listen to while relaxing, working, or running this may be the one you're looking for. Enjoy!
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