Music Review: Atlas
Surf rock’s been vacationing in New Jersey since Real Estate released their 2009 self-titled debut on Woodsist. The band signed with the London-based label Domino (Blood Orange, Dan Deacon and Arctic Monkeys, to name a few) to produce 2011’s “Days,” the sophomore record that solidified the band’s unique psychedelic-surf sound in the indie big leagues.
Real Estate fled to Chicago to avoid the distractions of recording an album in New York City. This time around, they wanted to capture their live sound while highlighting each member’s individual musical contribution.
The opening ‘Had to Hear’ evokes the familiar ease of Real Estate’s gentle drum and jangly guitar combos that was salient in “Days.” Martin Courtney’s sleepy vocals mesh nicely with the song’s quiet instrumentals, creating a multilayered lullaby that’ll only put you to sleep if you want it to.
‘Talking Backwards’ is the record’s first single. It’s as upbeat as Real Estate gets, with clean guitars keeping Courtney’s vocals afloat despite the cut’s more prominent drums. The lyrics touch on miscommunication and longing for a dreamlike love that’s hard to make sense of. This is one of the few songs on the record that exhibits audible variance in guitar chords. They’re still open and light, but switch musical gears to cater to Courtney’s changing tempos.
‘April’s Song’ is a lyricless interruption of Courtney’s vocals. The song features two guitars that play off one another’s melodic peaks alongside a sobering bass and simple drum. The beat remains constant throughout the track save for a few subtle guitar buildups; it’s consistent, but not to the extent that it translates into sonic monotony.
The borderline jazz guitar in ‘The Bend’ sets a loungy tone before subtle drum shakers transition the quietness to a jivier beat. With lyrics that reflect helplessness and immobility, the song is a bit of a downer compared to the more blissful tracks on the record, but Courtney’s warm and airy vocals keep vibes light enough to sway to.
Stay away from this record if you’re looking for Real Estate’s grand stylistic departure from their vaguely melancholic beach vibes. It’s important for a band’s sound to mature with time, but Real Estate is in no hurry to deviate from their signature beach vibes just yet. “Atlas” gives us the band at their most refined, picking up where “Days” left off with fun, breezy tracks that consistently uphold lyrical substance.