The video for “Crime,” one of the singles on Real Estate’s third album, Atlas, includes instructions on how to play the guitar parts. It makes sense: The Brooklyn-by-way-of-New Jersey jangle-pop rockers’ sound has and continues to be defined by the gentle interplay between guitarists Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney. On Atlas, the band’s guitar-driven, timeless-sounding soft rock is as polished and harmonious as ever, aided by the addition of keyboardist Matt Kallman (formerly of Girls) and drummer Jackson Pollis, and by two years’ worth of touring in support of Real Estate’s last album, 2011’s Days.
There is subtle, sublime beauty found on each song. “Talking Backwards” opens with a chiming guitar part that’s bright and uplifting. “Horizon” is anchored by a jaunty, marching melody that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of an old Western. Real Estate has never sounded quite this effortless. As nuanced and important as the interplay between guitars is, the band’s ability to blend all the elements together — especially Courtney’s honeyed vocals, which feel inseparable from the music — sets it above and beyond its contemporaries.
Real Estate may never be a band that rocks your world. Instead, it’s made churning out lovely, glossy music that harks back to soft rock’s heyday (the Sixties and Seventies) its singular mission. (Domino Recording)