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  • Atlas
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4.3 out of 5 stars22
4.3 out of 5 stars
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The only way to describe the new album by New Jersey stalwarts "Real Estate" is to echo the title of a sadly forgotten album by the Scottish band the Cosmic Rough Riders. Indeed their opus "Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine" has some similarities with "Atlas" since it often drew copious comparisons with bands like the Byrds, REM, Teenage Fanclub and the Jayhawks which are shared reference points for Real Estate. This album is essentially a blast of warm colour into a winter characterised by black sheets of rain. It is not a difficult listen by any standards, but there is real depth to be located in its grooves. It is safe to say that by the third listen "Atlas" will be a really good familiar old friend, one which you will turn to when you are confused for choice and you when you desire a reliable set of heartwarming shimmering pop rock headed up with with a capital "Q" for quality.

Things start well on "Atlas" and get better. Indeed this reviewer has had to be dragged screaming from playing the first three tracks on repeat. The lovely opener "Had to Hear" jingles and jangles with Gene Clark like chords and a melody to kill for. It is splendidly bettered by the forlorn "Past Lives" destined to be the soundtrack as the dying embers of a summer barbecue fade into a dark night sky. Best of all is the joyous single "Talking Backwards" where the mix of Martin Courtney's bittersweet vocals and the flowing guitar lines of Matt Mondanile's pulsating guitar melodies reach a true synthesis. The joyful instrumental "April Song" reinforces this but the clinchers come later with the brilliant chiming chords of "Primitive" which is the best Norman Blake song he never wrote; concluding with a nice guitar workout to seal the deal. This blissed out state concludes with "Navigator" a melancholy ode to the way that time passes and defeats us.

Ultimately you know what you get with this band. It may be that a "Real Estate plays Death Metal" album might be lurking in the depth of some unlikely recording vault, yet for now "Atlas" comfortably surpasses any of the bands previous two efforts and if their sin is "predictability" then their massive strength is great songwriting and the best ear for melody this side of Michael Stipe.
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on 18 November 2014
I recently saw Real Estate in concert (more on that later). The New Jersey indie rockers have been steadily building an increasingly larger platform (and audience) ever since their debut album 5 years ago, After their second album, 2011's "Days", their touring ambitions were bigger than ever, with great results. Now finally comes the band's third album.

"Atlas" (10 tracks; 38 min.) kicks off with "Had to Hear". which immediately feels like seeing an old friend again after a long absence: it sooths and is comfortable, with great interplay between lead singer/guitarist Martin Courtney and the lead guitar from Matt Mondanile. It's my favorite track on the album. "Past Lives" is a dreamy song. "Talking Backwards" is an up-tempo tune, rocking gently. Side A closes with the 5+ min. "The Bend", a beautiful pensive song. In the second half of the album, the good vibes continue, with an outstanding "Crime" where Courtney sings "I don't wanna die/Lonely and uptight/Stay with me/All will be revealed", wow. The album concludes with another breezy/dreamy tune, "Navigator", which captures the overall mood of the album perfectly. Bottom line: this is the best album from Real Estate, showcasing a band growing in confidence and skill, and sure to end high on my year-end list of "best of 2014" albums.

I saw Real Estate in concert at the MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati a few months ago. They were one of the headliners of Day 2, playing to a massive crowd. The band was in excellent spirits and played a 70 min/14 song set that relied heavily on "Atlas", I think they played all but 1 or 2 songs from the album. When they played "Had to Hear", I wished it'd never end, so beautiful and enticing. Real Estate played as the sun was setting on a warm, almost summer-like, Fall evening, and their music was the perfect companion for it. If you have a chance to see them, by all means, don't miss them. Meanwhile, "Atlas" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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on 3 April 2014
The album title derives from the German painter Gerhard Richter, who published a book of photos of the same name, with a similarly designed cover layout, so the album is obviously aiming high, with its cover art perhaps indicative of the approach they are taking. The album itself is reminiscent of Neu, sometimes, and of Michael Rother, particularly on the instrumental track, reinterpreted into a kind of fey Americana.
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on 14 July 2014
It's a great shame that this came out around the same time as The War On Drugs 'Lost In The Dream' because, buying them together and with 'Atlas' being a more subtle beast, it didn't get a look in for a long while on my CD player.
While it doesn't have some of the amazing hooks present on the self-titled debut and even better 'Days', it has a beautiful, dreamlike flow that just takes you away on a bright summer's day. It's the very definition of laid back but not in a stoned, aimless way. As is their modus operandi, the band find a groove/melody and lock onto it in a mesmeric fashion - you just need to give yourself to the music, the universal lyrics and drift...
Highlights for me are 'Talking Backwards' and closer 'Navigator' but it's probably best to enjoy as a delicately shifting suite of chiming Anglophilic indie-jangle beamed in from the late 80s/early 90s.
Another winning summer soundtrack from the ironically tight ensemble who deal with looseness.
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on 23 May 2014
What a fantastic, uplifting, lilting and generally feel good LP.
Every year it gets to spring and i really fancy a soundtrack to while away the days - i thought it might have been Beck's Morning Phase - but whilst it is great, it lacks the hook to drive along the M4 to! This release has lovely guitar notes, gently hazy singing, but also enough energy to turn your head.
Teh influences are obviously deep and wide - but not in the retrograde 'Yuck' way - instead we get a whisper of very early REM, a hint of 'Surf's Up', and little taste of 'Bandwagonesque all mixed in with a wash of 'Van Occupanther' hooks.
Listen to it on Spotify first, but buy the LP - beutifully housed in an embossed gatefold sleeve with a great little postcard and a download.
Soundtrack to the Summer.
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on 23 December 2015
An almost great album, with nine excellent tracks - notably Had to Hear, Talking Backwards, The Bend, Primitive and best of all Crime. And if they'd left it at that, this would be a five star record. But unfortunately it's let down by one awful song, How Might I Live. This dull, plodding dirge is written and 'sung' by the bass player Alex Bleeker, and is clearly a case of band democracy triumphing over quality control. Still, just skip track 8 and you have yourself an excellent album. Enjoy!
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on 3 April 2014
A summery feel good album. Melody clear sounds not cheesy. Takes me back to 1995. A must buy for any music lover.
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on 23 February 2015
What a great album. Beautiful, catchy songs that lift the heart. I cannot remember the last time my favourite song on an album was an instrumental. Aprils Song does it for me on this one though.
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on 29 November 2015
Absolutely love this band and This album west Coast American album. Cant recommend Highly enough Go and buy. pithfork gave it one of the best reviews Of This year 5 stars
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on 11 September 2015
A truly outstanding album for those who enjoy melody and harmony....every track is excellent
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