New Jersey band Real Estate have made a name for themselves in recent years with their first two albums, Real Estate and Days, both of which were generally well received and very relaxing jangle pop/surf rock listens. However, for me at least, the band has an unfortunate tendency to make music that’s so laid back and airy that it fails to really be interesting in any way. Their new album isn’t really an exception to this rule, although it does have its redeeming moments. Atlas has a sound that makes me think of driving along a beach-y coast with the top down, not really caring about anything at all. If this sounds like your thing, by all means listen to the record. I can certainly see why people would like this album so much, but as much as I love the beach, surf rock has never really been my thing. The songs on Atlas don’t really do much in the way of creativity, and while I’ve heard people say the album is deeper and more serious than other Real Estate releases, I don’t really get that vibe. There’s a few songs that toy with nostalgia and more serious feelings, such as “Past Lives” and “Crime”, but both of these efforts sort of fall flat, and their lyrical melodrama doesn’t really affect me.
There are several songs on this album that I like, such as “Primitive” and “The Bend”, both of which use Real Estate’s laid back jangle pop sound in a way that ends up being very likable. The lyrics on these tracks manage to stay away from being to cheesy (unlike “Horizon”), and “The Bend” ventures into more serious territory without sounding lame and melodramatic. Two other songs I really enjoy from this album are “April’s Song” and “How I Might Live”. The former is an instrumental track that reminds me of what “Let’s Go Away For a While” did on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds; it’s a nice little break from the standard pop songs. “How I Might Live” features vocals by the band’s bassist rather than the lead vocalist, and the instrumentals are more folksy than the rest of the record which makes for another nice change of pace. Overall, this album doesn’t really have much on it to make me really hate it, but it just doesn’t do enough to impress me too much. If you’re into surf rock and jangle pop, definitely give it a listen. If not, you’re not missing much.
RIYL: Best Coast, Beach House, Mac Demarco
Favorite tracks: “Primitive”, “April’s Song”, “How I Might Live”
Review by Alex McCullough