If you’ve kept up at all with indie music during the past 8-10 years you know it’s changing rapidly. There’s not a particular sound you can pinpoint and call “indie” anymore. So many new indie acts have adapted and recycled sounds from the past and pushed the limits into more of a pop sound. But there are, of course, the bands that have stuck around over the years with minimal change to their sound. Bands like Modest Mouse, Spoon, Wilco, and Arcade Fire and more recently Vampire Weekend are examples. Those bands have found a niche market, so to speak, and have grown into adult-friendly music. Or maybe their listeners have just grown into adults. Either way, those bands are still, for all intents and purposes, “indie rock” bands.
In the past five years, one band has stuck out amongst its peers as a true American “indie rock” band. That band consists of guys who grew up in the suburbs of northeastern America in New Jersey. That band is Real Estate.
Their first self-titled album came out in 2009 and featured “Beach Comber” a track that propelled them into the music atmosphere as a hazy, beachy, (also pinned as “lo-fi) surf-rock style band. Also on that debut, a song that absolutely floored me, “Suburban Dogs.” With the snare drum on the up beat and bass drum on the down keeping time throughout the song, and the phase shifting guitar noodling, “Suburban Dogs” sets the stage for a summer evening riding your skateboard home from your friend’s house as the sun sets on the paved road in front of you and you feel absolutely carefree. Let’s get this right, this album is perfect for summer weather.
In 2011, they released their second album Days on a bigger indie label, Domino Recording Company. This record had a bit more polish and sheen but still they stuck with their formula for writing and composing music. Still keeping with the theme of the previous record and the underlying idea of nostalgia, they turned out songs like “Green Aisles,” which is one of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard, and “Out of Tune.” But this time, the band notched up the BPMs on tracks like “Easy” and the now crowd-pleasing “It’s Real,” the song everyone sings along with at shows. The band even had some minor chart success, reaching number 52. With this record, Real Estate was beginning to carve out a space in indie rock and get comfortable for the long term.
This year they’ve released yet another critically acclaimed record Atlas, again on Domino. They are embarking on another major tour, more promotional marketing, and even had a spot on “The Late Show with David Letterman” back in April. “Atlas” could be their most successful album to date, this time reaching number 34 on the charts, so far. By now you’ve probably read that they used Wilco’s studio space in Chicago with lots of instruments at their disposal to record “Atlas,” also garnering comparisons to Wilco. “Talking Backwards,” “Had to Hear” and “Crime” stick out as the most popular and catchiest songs on the album, and this time main songwriter and singer Martin Courtney tackles more recent topics and focuses on the future rather than reflecting on the past as he did so often on the previous albums’ songs.
On this record you begin to recognize songs as “Real Estate” songs. Not so much because they are on the album, but because of the instantly recognizable guitar stylings of one Matt Mondanile and the vocals of Martin Courtney you’ve grown accustomed to. You pick up pretty quickly on Matt’s style particularly on “Crime” in the same way you would pick out Britt’s voice on a Spoon song, or the instrumentation of a Vampire Weekend song. You don’t have to know it’s a Real Estate song to know that it’s a Real Estate song. This is a sure sign of a band making an impact in music.
Real Estate is quickly becoming a mainstay in American indie rock like the bands I mentioned above. They will be one of the bands that will hopefully have a long career and grow a larger and larger fanbase. I’ve met the lead singer, Martin twice now: once in Nashville a few years ago and earlier this year in Austin, and I can tell you that he is a driven and professional musician, not a guy looking to make noise on social media or soak up the hype or fame. The guys in Real Estate just want to make great guitar music. This is a great band, so pay attention!
When I heard they were finally coming to Birmingham, I was totally excited. Hopefully, you were able to pick up tickets for the now SOLD OUT show at Bottletree THIS WEEKEND, but if you weren’t able to get tickets please make sure you find a tour date near by you and go see Real Estate. If you do have a ticket to Sunday’s show, I’ll see you there.