Real Estate – Atlas
by Amanda Hoover (Journalism), published March 14th 2014
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Three years after the release of their 2011 album Days, Real Estate returned to the scene with mixed emotions, wondering how fans would receive their shift in style. But to be honest, not too much has really changed from Days to Atlas, the band’s third studio album. They’re more in-sync than ever, still building on their trademark clean chords, obscure lyrics and repetitious, airy riffs that run seamlessly from one dreamy song to the next.
But seams aren’t always such a bad thing. In this case, everything starts to sound too dense and too similar about halfway in, and the tracks become a bit tricky to discern from one another. In a well-mixed combination of bliss and anxiety, Atlas tends to run in circles that obfuscate any concrete interpretation of each song, creating a sense of ambiguity. But if there’s one thing listeners can take away from Martin Courtney’s hazy lyrics, it’s a sense of uncertainty about love, loneliness and change. On “Talking Backwards,” the first single, Courtney laments about communication breakdown in a relationship, singing “I might as well be talking backwards/ Am I making any sense to you?” It’s followed by “April’s Song,” which is the sort instrumental treasure that listeners should expect from Real Estate after two albums. Its bright sound is the most reminiscent of Days, and works to balance the melancholy moods of the tracks it’s tucked between.
Bassist Alex Bleeker’s sole written contribution, “How Might I Live,” is a welcome ripple on the surface of Atlas, shaking things up without shattering the entire mood of the album. There’s uncertainty, but not the undefined kind that Courtney’s lyrics push. Bleeker’s track sheds the coverage of pretty lines and relies on simplicity to convey the most convincing and honest vulnerability found on the album.
But the ambiguity in Courtney’s lyrics does have some charm to it. Just as he sings on “Talking Backwards,” “Make sense of this dream/It’s the one thing I can’t seem to do.” It’s tough to grab onto meaning in the abstraction here, but maybe you don’t need to worry about making sense of everything on Atlas. It’s some pretty listening, and it might be best to just sit back and enjoy.
Key Tracks: “Talking Backwards” “Navigator” “How Might I Live”