TUESDAY, MARCH 04, 2014 |
Posted by: K. Hess
Atlas isn't going to tug violently at you heartstrings, it isn't going to awaken the tiredest part of your soul, and it isn't going to enlighten you with philosophical nuance; but it is going to be the soundtrack most befitting each of those moments as you come by them on your own. Atlas, the third LP from New Jersey's placid rock band Real Estate, is a deeply sentimental record, wrought with a very suburban, particularly American nostalgia. It's the kind of album that sunny drives from here to there are made of. It's a refined progression from the band's 2011 record Days, and representative of everywhere Real Estate has been, is, and might be going.
The record is a new peak in what has been a coming of age discography. In Atlas Real Estate has isolated their strengths and shed their seemingly youthful weaknesses. Everything about the record suggests that we are witnessing that moment of transition from adolescent campfire band into a more mature musical endeavor. The sagely confessional chorus of opening track "Had to Hear" demonstrates a self-awareness of being not quite lost and not quite found, but distinctly in transit, "I had to hear you / Just to feel near you / I know it's not true / But it's been so long / I know it's wrong / I know." There is no telling what the impending leg of Real Estate's journey will hold, only that Atlas marks the beginning.
Musically the record contains all of the wistfully imperturbable guitar chords of the group's past records. Rather than serving as driving force, however, they are joined in equal proportion by beautifully dreamy vocals. The perfectly balanced union of vocals and guitar is a large part of what gives the album such a simplified cleanliness. The sound has a bright austerity to it, moving through each song with vaguely country ramblings. In many ways it sounds like what the day-to-day business of living feels like, equal parts melancholy and bliss united into something digestible enough to experience on a daily basis.
Atlas isn't the road trip that will change your life. Atlas is the best friend riding shotgun who is just as unprepared for the journey as you are: Perhaps it's unable to provide a specific insight, but it's the perfect company for the ride.
Watch the video for "Talking Backward", the album's most playful track and its first single.