Reticence isn’t exactly a sought after trait in the world of indie rock or in popular music in general, but Real Estate proves it has its place. The band’s 2009 self-titled debut was utterly free of pretensions and fairly reserved and as such, served as a refreshing palate cleanser in between dense Flaming Lips and Dirty Projectors albums released that same year. Their laid back, low-fi introduction just felt effortless. Regardless of how much time the band took fleshing the record out, it was just an easy album to throw on during a lazy Sunday afternoon, sink into and, ultimately, get. Real Estate knew how to write hooks that could draw you in, and the lack of overbearing production gave it a this-could-have-come-out-any-decade appeal. In other words, it sounded great. And fortunately those waiting for another fix of Real Estate’s sun-soaked, lackadaisical tunes are indeed in luck, as their latest release Days will certainly do the trick.
This is not to say that Days is a complete re-write of the debut. In many ways, the bar has been raised a bit for the band, most noticeably in the production. The guitar leads immediately stand apart from those on the band’s debut, sparkling in a tasteful, melodic and temperate way. Backed by often phased out rhythm guitar tracks, the album has a kaleidoscopic haze to it. And the record’s sepia tones could not have come at better time of year; they are perfect for the autumn months. With its reflective air akin to early work by the Clientele, the album’s opener, “Easy,” sets up the paradigm for the record. The lead guitar carries the song, injecting mesmerizing, unhurried hooks sporadically throughout. Days‘ jangly rhythm guitars and reverb laden leads also takes cues from 80’s New Zealand and Australian based artists like the Verlaines and the Church. “Younger Than Yesterday” in particular, with its lower register guitar hook, resembles the Go-Betweens’ “On My Block,” albeit at a much more chilled out pace.
The album is peppered throughout with affecting, if vague imagery describing scenes with passing streetlights on aimless drives. They’re not the kind of lyrics that tend to hold up to intense scrutiny, but they work well within the context of the record. Only at times does the band veer off into territory that’s just a bit too lazy. “Around the fields we run/ With love for everyone” has an admirable optimism even if it sounds a bit clichéd, but in “All the Same,” the lines “It’s alright/ It’s okay” are repeated just a few too many times to ignore. Truthfully though, to focus on the lyrics is to miss the point; throughout most of Days, the vocals simply act as another instrument interwoven into the mix. You’re better off absorbing the whole package rather than letting a few obtuse lines detract you.
In just about every perceivable way, Days marks an improvement over its predecessor. It has a strange innocence about it, almost as though it came from another era altogether. Highlights like the uplifting “It’s Real” and the open chord based “Municipality” are greater high points than anything served on their debut, and as an album it just holds together with a stronger cohesion. All considered, the seven and a half minute closer “All the Same” is an appropriate ending to the record. A seemingly endless loop of dazzling, hypnotic guitar work, it finishes the album out in a continuous jam. Rather than ending on an epic surge, the band winds down slowly until it naturally comes to a close. Seeing as how organically everything seems to fall into place, it should come as no surprise that the first track is called “Easy.”
Stream: Real Estate – “Easy”