Even if you only paid moderate attention to indie music last year, it’d still be painfully obvious that lo-fi continued to surge as a go-to aesthetic for many new artists. I suppose that shouldn’t be too shocking; with minimal instrumental (or songwriting) talent required and the appropriate recording equipment readily available to anyone with a computer, or a few bucks for a used 4-track recorder, this is a trend that is particularly easy to get on board with. But it’s also easy to draw distinctions between those who operate within this vague genre labeling.
Taking the high road, New Jersey-via-Brooklyn band Real Estate don’t feel like a bandwagon hanger-on knock-off or mask their music in peak-heavy production, instead opting to organically meld their subdued, surf-tinged psychedelics with subtle atmospheres and textures. Their modestly hyped — at least measured against some of their lo-fi counterparts — debut full-length follows a series of well received 7-inches, EPs, and compilation appearances, featuring mostly newly recorded versions of their old songs. Creatively helmed by multi-instrumentalist and principal songwriter Martin Courtney and lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile III (of Predator Vision / Ducktails), Real Estate was spawned from within their collective ethereal headspace as a consistent chill-out album for warm weather, stoney summer days, pool parties, and the like — all of which are descending upon us rather quickly. There’s nothing that’s particularly challenging here: songs float along languidly, with the flickers and bends of Mondanile’s guitar work standing out amongst the wistful haze of sounds. And though the lyrics feed into their running theme of youthful aimlessness, they’re far from ambitious, shifting from largely relatable, none-too-distinct tales of summer hangouts on “Black Lake” (“We went to the lake and we sat in the sand / Echoes came over those fresh summer jams / The water was warm from the sun beating down / We waded in slow ’til we couldn’t touch the ground“), to “who peed in the pool?” puns (“Someone forgot the golden rule / Let’s go find another swimming pool“), to the comically inane repetition of “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” on “Suburban Beverage.”
While this record’s easy sway may drift into the realm of the unremarkable at times, it’s nonetheless easy to enjoy and return to for repeated spins. Its strengths are subtler — in fact, almost impossible to pinpoint — as Real Estate rely on an album’s worth of nostalgia and dreamy, affecting melodies in order to slowly draw the listener into their blissful summer soundscapes. But no matter when you might decide to put on this solid debut, be it on the precipice of summer or in the heart of winter, it will remain an album that immediately transports you to the warmest of seasons. And I think just about anyone can get on board with that.