Straight out of Ã¼ber-fresh Woodsist, the indie label responsible for such obscure yet renowned releases as the Wavves debut tape, a Vivian Girls 7″, Crystal Stilts’ debut EP, and many more, comes a record breaking out one of the last indie names to be remembered of the decade. Real Estate and their eponymous debut full-length is a logical next step for the lo-fi label and another one in the row for a Pitchfork-ready release. While some want to liken said site with a hen picking the muddy ground for petty seeds, eventually finding a somewhat reviewable piece of lo-fi junk to raise it towards the sun, blow it up and call it a cultural gem and a relevant diamond in the rough, Real Estate rise above any noise fodder punks and earn that 8.5 review, #20 on their 2009 albums list and therefore also that springboard into the immediate consciousness of an entire indie scene.
Now, Real Estate isn’t a very original band if you want to put them in the guitar-based lo-fi scene’s perspective. In the cosmos of DIY, Real Estate is like the yin to Wavves’ yan. While the latter rubs distorted walls of guitar in the listeners face in order to smear off some of their sunny charm, Real Estate entangle us in attractive, carefully arranged layers of guitar strumming. There are hints towards structures that borders drowsy surf and psychedelic pop of the 60s, which on paper should be a concern because there’s been a wealth of bands this decade channeling those two cornerstones of the slightly more dared, alternative side of American MOR radio.
Yet, in all their humble potential to be played in a hip elevator near you, Real Estate rise above tremendously only because there are minor traces of sheer brilliance in melody construction (“Beach Comber” and “Fake Blues” are given to linger) and major credentials to be handed out for the good taste and know-how (or maybe just luck and technical/monetary circumstances, do we really care?) to show restraint and a sense of minimalism in the production of the album.
The sound is like a flat soda pop – it seems to have gone from fizzy to fuzzy. But there’s no need to be fussy, the album still contains a lot of the band’s blunted yet still sweet instrumental and vocal delivery. The album itself is like a sepia-toned polaroid that has been left out in the sun a little too long, having bleached the picture almost to the point of fading completely, showing the band sitting on the porch with beers on a gleaming afternoon by the pool. Most energy has faded from the exposure of the endless sunbeams of the day and the drowsiness and lackof will to do anything particular has kicked in. On the back of the polaroid, sent like as if a postcard from a sunny vacation, the band tells short stories of life in their native suburbia. Wether it’s taciturn and possibly metaphoric observations of combing the beach with a metal detector, dogs falling in love with their chains or the band only bothering to squeeze out the words “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel allright?” (or isn’t it the more psychedelic meaning with the lowercase “s” word sprite?) in the super-soft rockepic “Suburban Beverage” to instead concentrate on their just nearly meticulous instrumentals, Real Estate’s slacker pop is consistently nice and carefree enough to make even Nathan Williams (of Wavves) jump up and down snorting with anger: “I care less! I care less! I care less!”.
The weird thing is that Real Estate don’t have to compete with said lo-fi noise stripling on Californian territory. They are actually (ta-da!) from the Garden State of New Jersey. Making a new film soon, Braff? For all The Shins and Yo La Tengo lines you’d like to draw here and for all the reasons my mind want to switch places between the more cool, bluish California band Princeton and our sungazing (ooops, new shoegaze offspring?!) band here, Real Estate really do come up with something own and personal. Their slacking is more down-to-earth and their total musical imagery of early post-adolescent life is more convincing than I’ve heard in a very long time. The sense of recognition, of the boredom and the lack of meaning that many listerners can relate to elevates this album above indie elevator music.
Seldom do we come across an album that displays the beauty of being dumb, careless, and trapped in your freedom in such an unassuming but reaffirming way while not dramatizing it into neither happy-go-lucky pop or melancholic rock. Bittersweet may be tossed around a lot these days as musicians try to make their expression more complex and emotional range wider, but Real Estate’s music transcends the worn out boundaries and delivers the true feeling of it instead of just rehashing it. This is why Real Estate is not to be overlooked or forgotten but acknowledged as we head into 2010 as their debut album will offer times to cherish, a sound of times that have perished and the soundtrack to when we just don’t care about much in the world. Real estate agents: I’ll buy the house that plays this album through the high-end home stereo system.