The daylight has begun to stretch further and the winter months are loosening their grip on the landscape. The sun beams down with a spring in its step and nestled amongst the awakening flowers and erupting shoots of green is In Mind – the fourth album from New Jersey natives Real Estate.
If Arcade Fire were able to paint the perfect picture of the suburbs, then Real Estate can build the multi-sensory 3D model, complete with an aroma of freshly cut grass and sprinkler that marshals the lawn on a three setting cycle. Despite trading up state New Jersey for the hipster haven of Brooklyn at the time of the band’s last full-length effort in 2014, the suburbs remain the stand out muse for Real Estate’s aesthetic.
Images of tree-lined sidewalks and shaded driveways still colour the lyrics from frontman Martin Courtney, who lugubriously drags his feet in longing for ever less tangible dreams of home. Things have moved on, and ‘Stained Glass’ provides a glimmering of acceptance proclaiming:
“There’s no place I’d rather be right now //I’d love to never leave, but I’m not sure how”.
‘Two Arrows’ revisits the sense of unwilling departure, however the track voyages off into Courtney’s mind, where tussling thoughts are dramatized by hoarse lead guitars and unassuming rhythms that cease in an abrupt moment of clarity. And yet, In Mind isn’t quite as reminiscent as Atlas or Days. Rather, the collection of ten tracks subtly places a matured outlook and fresh anxieties in the setting of a hot idyllic summer, a backdrop in which Real Estate are one of the foremost architects.
As a new dawn for the band appears on the horizon, following the departure of lead guitarist Matt Mondanile and acquisition of Julian Lynch, In Mind could have been expected to channel the bright-eyed indulgence of a time and place that was sewn into the seam of the records that proceeded it, and gracefully breeze by, shimmering with the inimitable Real State finish – achievable only through five musicians woven tighter than the material of Courtney’s uniform woolen sweatshirts. Instead, the cool breeze of Atlas and Days has subsided, and the summer in session is a scorcher, leaving every last key and lick of the guitar, sticky and dripping with sustenance. Although there were initial fears, the loss of Matt Mondanile doesn’t deter In Mind from traveling to the instrumental paradise of previous Real Estate albums, with the change in personal even providing some of the strongest lead guitar the band have been able to put to record. ‘Serve The Song’ and ‘Holding Pattern’ combine loose leads and snug rhythm to great effect, bringing a slight frayed edge look to an otherwise pristine outfit.
In Mind isn’t an adventurous album, but its consistency in respect of what’s proceeded it neatly places the record as the latest chapter in Real Estate’s collection of pastoral tales. As a band, Real Estate are aware of their strengths and show no signs from straying from a proven formula. Yes, album opener ‘Darling’ could have sprung from anywhere across the band’s discography, but its delicacy and emotive melody aim straight for the heart to joyously remind that Real Estate are the unequivocal leaders in their field.
While Real Estate aren’t attempting to draw a line between laid back and mercurial, In Mind takes all the time you’ll allow it, and gradually repays your patience with an abstract blend of harmonious instrumentation and tepid vocals, lined with introspective relief. If Atlas buried a whispered sadness below sedimentary layers of reverb and grinning lead guitar, then In Mind cloaks its coming of age confusions with ethereal riffs that steer ever further from the reality of once was.