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Real Estate - Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine
on 3 March 2014
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.