Music Reviews

Real Estate Days

(Domino) Rating - 8/10

 Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asked, “What’s in a name?” For a band, especially one named Real Estate, the answer is “Quite a lot.” Trying to break the indie music mold with a name tied to commercialism is like an aspiring Rabbi wearing a Mel Gibson t-shirt to synagogue. And yet, I must applaud the group for finding a moniker that subtly but sufficiently summarizes their sound.

Bands, much to the chagrin of indie snobs everywhere, are businesses at a basic level: they manufacture and present a product for consumption. The most successful outfits have a defined, niche sound and offer the highest quality of craftsmanship to boot. Real Estate’s self-titled 2009 debut appeared on several year-end best-of lists and was received with general acclaim because it accomplished both of these objectives. No Ripcord’s review of that album, for example, succinctly categorized it as “a surf-inspired 60’s lo-fi record when all the beach boys have long put out the bonfire and rightfully tailored their coats…[Real Estate] have created an atmosphere to claim as their own.” From a quality standpoint, writer Juan Rodriguez called it “immaculately composed” and praised its “lovely tonality.” Real Estate was, as it very well should have been, a successful product launch for the group.

Approaching Days for the first time, the question of quality is quickly dispelled. Opener Easy is simple in its structure, with only a and b sections, but the two are distinct and flow together seamlessly. Green Aisles exhibits a minimalist aesthetic and lean design that fans of The xx will recognize and appreciate. Every facet, right down to the 2 measures of kick drum between phrases, is an indispensable part of the whole. And though the band revolves around this type of arrangement, the wheels don’t fall off when harmonies and embellishments are brought along for the ride.  Wonder Years may be the most joyful gem on this disk, and it’s the hum-along background vocals and reverb-washed guitar that make it better for its bulk. The air of careful conception surrounding Days is one of its most unmistakable and undeniable characteristics.

Another of its characteristics is its sound, and herein lies the appropriateness of Real Estate as its brand name. No matter the quality of architecture or the strength of composition, the structure as a whole won’t be for everyone. Would a family of 4 with an ardent passion for Manchester United move into a 2-bedroom painted Chelsea's royal blue? Probably not, and it wouldn’t matter if the floors were imported Italian marble embossed with gold leaf. That’s Real Estate. The composition is flawless, but the feel is mellow and meandering, subdued and slight. It’s a stylistic decision projected through timbre and tone. The sound, just as on their prior release, is pensive ‘60s surf rock. As you may surmise from the allegorical album art adorning Days, a great deal of consistency exists from song to song. If this sound isn’t for you, you’re going to want to try a different neighborhood. Real Estate will never sell out arenas or travel in a convoy of 8 tour buses because, while their product is world-class, the niche in which they operate is simply too small. Few would appraise this album at below market value, but its precise worth will largely be determined by personal preference and appeal.