It’s one thing to hold back for effect, to keep things simple and low-key to help accentuate the nuances and let every component breathe. But it’s another thing when that effort falls flat into boredom. Real Estate’s self-titled debut album did just that, with barely a third of the album’s 10 tracks able to rise above its hushed hum, and the repetitive riffing of “Fake Blues” as the only trues earworm still unshackled from obscurity.
Flash-forward two years and the members of Real Estate are now New Jersey’s indie kings of surf pop and “jangly guitars,” a term music reviewers can’t resist from using. On October 17, they drop their second delivery in the form of Days. But this follow-up LP is significantly more powerful, so much more emotionally driven that you’d be hard pressed to find anything on it that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on their debut. The key is in the aesthetics, and Real Estate has crafted one of the best cold-weather albums ever to fill the October air.
Days is no longer than its predecessor, neither in timestamp nor track number. But that makes the leap for singer/songwriter Martin Courtney and crew that much more apparent.
Right out of the gate, “Easy” shatters your conception of the group’s talents with an unbelievable crispness and energy, as if the song title itself were a reference to how effortless the group was able to raise its game from a minimalist, shoe-gaze rehash to the distinctive, emotion-driven pop bursting from Days. Starting with a head-bobbing, poppy energy, the track swings to an impressively serious tone, as Courtney’s vocals and lead guitarist Matthew Mondanile’s sweeping, chorus-drenched guitar simultaneously swallow and seep through you.
“Green Aisles” is a hazy, floating track that stomps out monotony by encompassing itself with layer upon layer of convalescing guitar. It’s the perfect lead into Days’ first single, “It’s Real,” a track that will floor any fan of the band’s debut with its undeniable improvement. When Courtney’s reverb-doused chorus of woah’s transitions to the song’s bridge, the moment is nearly breath-snatching, leaving you pondering where all this emotion and energy could possibly have come from.
By track five, the sullen “Out of Tune,” you start to realize that all of the songs on the album are, like the debut, roughly the same speed; every track’s drum part is more or less interchangeable. But it’s that structural consistency that makes the diversity of these tracks, a diversity that the debut lacked, that much more astounding, especially when you’re lulled through the instrumental “Kinder Blumen” and transported two decades back with “Wonder Years.”
As the closing track, “All the Same,” eases into its instrumental break around the three-minute mark, all you hear for a levitating thirty seconds is a near-perfect guitar part laying brick and mortar all around itself. Mondanile’s equally satisfying complimentary guitar snakes inside, joined by the vibrant notes of Alex Bleeker’s bass moments later. The whole song feels as if it’s about to peak, but then it just stays…for four minutes, until it winds itself down in a calculated tempo spiral.
When Days wraps up with that seven-minute track, that’s when the supposed repetition, lack of variety—everything you think of as a potential shortcoming of the album—becomes part of one near-perfect idea; possibly a photograph, be it the sunlit Jersey turnpike Courtney drives down on “Out of Tune” or the green expanses of his Garden state childhood in the chorus of “Easy,” with 10 different angles and exposures. Whatever current is channeling underneath Days, it’s clear that Real Estate have mastered, in a way no indie band today can, the mantra of less is more.