March 5, 2014
by Jasen Ribadenera
Real Estate recorded the basic tracks for their latest record Atlas live in “Jeff Tweedy, the dude from Wilco”‘s studio in Chicago, IL. Why do I write this fact to you, you are probably not asking yrself right now? Well, cuz I can hear it all over the 10 songs that are the outcome of this time spent cutting full-band-hot-mic takes in the bowels of the windy city. Where their previous record, the excellent Days (Domino 2011), staked claim to mellow vibe, sunny day bike rides rock, Atlas carries that torch forward proudly, albeit with a dollop more gravy.
It’s always been my staunchly held belief that an album is only as good as it’s opening track. From Nirvana’s In Utero, to Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me, all the way to Dr Dre’s The Chronic (after the “intro” of course). A truly memorable record will bite you in yr attention bone from note one, thereby guaranteeing yr undivided attention ’til the bitter. There are, of course, exceptions but I like to throw down personal truths from time to time so lighten the fuck up and keep on reading. Atlas opens with “Had To Hear” and accomplishes a certain kind of scene setting if you will. The inviting jangly chords from singer/guitarist Martin Courtney’s Stratocaster are then interwoven with guitarist Matt Mondinale’s chiming leads and snap! A brother knows it can only be one of two things. A) A new Real Estate song or B) a blatant rape of their sound by some shameless pale thieves. And that’s the best a band can really hope for, right? Up next is “Past Lives” where Courtney sings “I cannot walk past these houses where we once stood / I see past lives / But somehow you’re still here / Underneath this canopy / All lit up above us.” Our boys are growing up. Even though the vocal melody comes across as a little strained I still become affected by those lyrics and the way the song ends. Something about that ending…
“Talking Backwards” rounds out the first three songs proper. That’s another factor that I believe to be ultra-important in a record, as you can usually capture an album’s entire story, on the fly, all within those first three songs. Try it sometime. Anyways, it’s here where I first heard the band sounding super connected and really benefiting from the live recording technique. You can feel the music surge and sway in a way that’s not genuinely achievable by the individual-take method of recording. Screamingly evident on the instrumental take of “April’s Song” you can almost see the band cutting it in one sweaty take late Sunday night in the studio’s live room and then listening back to it before unanimously putting the kibosh on adding vocals because it’s already perfect. Any band with a chemistry and a mutual vision has a sound that is unique only to them and only accessible when playing their instruments together, connected, side-by-side. I’ve always believed that, and since this review has been littered with my “beliefs” up until now I figure I’ll go with it. Let it ride, so to speak. I hear their cohesion in the song “Crime” especially. The rhythm section of bassist Alex Bleeker and new drummer Jackson Pollis (I hope that’s his real name) hold it fuckin’ down for Courtney and Mondanile to shake it off and get all loose, as loose as they’re able. It’s my favorite song on the record for this very reason.
Although I’ll always love Days for it’s Oxycontin-like addictiveness, I love Atlas like it’s Methadone. Clocking in at a healthy 38 mins of muted pastels. Another “…behind the wheel” lyric line. No suburban sickness, the good life.
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