Second album time for New Jersey’s Real Estate – who on the evidence of this are really finding their groove as a band who manage to be somehow soothing and energising at the same time.
Listening to Days is a cleansing experience. The music is slightly out of focus, gently lifting some of the essence of the beguiling music of the Byrds and other West Coast pop luminaries, but putting the stamp of four Ridgewood boys firmly on its front.
They are even confident enough to include a fully fledged instrumental, the accomplished Kinder Blumen, whose intricate guitar work follows on from the album’s most obvious single, It’s Real. This subtly euphoric three minute work of genius deserves a lengthy stint on prime time radio, with a softly chanted hook line, some cheery, jangly guitar lines and an uplifting yet earnest emoting.
That it isn’t likely to make prime time radio is down to the slight but endearing shyness running through the quartet’s music. These are private moments, but the music used to portray them is uniformly positive. Album opener Easy is a beautiful opener that offers a point of focus but ends up dreamily gushing, “Around the fields we run, with love for everyone”. There is something of the early music of The Cardigans in their carefree strains, too, while Out Of Tune has a whiff of Fleetwood Mac‘s Dreams about it by the end – though here the lyrics are loaded with hidden barbs.
Vocals are always slightly backward in the mix, picking up that West Coast fuzziness and humidity, and there are usually at least two guitar lines on the go at any one point. This means the focus can occasionally be lost – but the overall mood of peace and goodwill remains, despite the odd lyrical reference to the contrary. “I’m not yours, and you’re not mine”, offers Wonder Years, which seems to be reminiscing more than is properly healthy, despite a continued good humour.
This relentlessly positive outlook may not suit those searching for a bit more angst in their pop music, but it suits Real Estate just fine – and at the same time, they are a band whose surface attractiveness is more often than not complemented by emotional investment. The coda to closing track All The Same suggests their potential to toughen slightly in the future, too. At seven minutes it is an epic song by their standards, but despite becoming an instrumental for its second half it grows in stature musically, the guitars standing tall as their melodies become ever more insistent.
Adding a bit more steel will bring an important extra element to Real Estate for sure, but what makes this band such an attractive late summer proposition is their tunefulness, their sunny outlook, their sheer positivity. An Indian summer set to music, in fact.