The qualities that make a great guitar band are generally based around the speed of the fretwork, how hard the band rocks, and how much they can shred, man. It’s hard to judge New Jersey indie rockers Real Estate by any of these measures, because — for starters — they’re not Van Halen, Kiss, or even Queens of the Stone Age. Theirs is a shimmering, dreamy indie pop that makes few allowances for showboating. But they also know how to play their fucking instruments — just one listen to the gorgeous, dynamic layers of “Talking Backwards” should prove the kind of abilities they harness. Perhaps it’s not unnecessarily showy, but it’s also not oversimplified.
As with the best of the material on their last album, 2011’s Days, “Talking Backwards” jangles in all the right ways, wrapping layers of brightly beaming guitars around each other during its triumphant chorus, wherein Martin Courtney returns to the refrain, “The only thing that really matters is the one thing I can’t see to do.” It’s an interesting trick, too, how that chorus feels so much bigger than what comes before it, because it seems as if Real Estate is only taking on minor shifts and subtle changes throughout the course of the song. And yet, each shift feels like a big new step up. To say they have a “less is more” approach isn’t quite right, more that they’re doing a lot with a little. Maybe it’s just an illusion, but what they project with a few well executed guitar licks feels boundless.[from Atlas, out March 4; Domino]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.