Review Summary: Simplicity updated.
Real Estate are one of THOSE bands, and it can be a bit frustrating. They are one of those bands where everything is so deceptively simple, so effortless, that it's somewhat of a paradox: If you put them on as background music, it will still be an enjoyable listen, wistful hums of guitar gliding gently under sweet and unassuming vocals. A lot of people are content to stop there, and therein lies the problem: Real Estate are one of those bands that give back more the more you invest yourself, nay, immerse yourself, in their music. Given the right amount of focus, a wealth of subtleties emerge, both musically and emotionally.
I'll be honest: Days did not make me a Real Estate fan. While I appreciated the skill and craft, there was something missing; the songs, in this case, WERE too easy, too breezy and slightly inconsequential. Now, taken as a whole, the album was great, one long suburban reverie of guitar pop nostalgia. But there just wasn't anything that popped, nothing to contrast the happy-go-lucky demeanor of the songs as a whole.
Enter Atlas. Here now, in a delightful surprise, is a DYNAMIC record. Yes, there are still those familiar and affable melodies, the tuneful guitar pop, the palpable nostalgia. But now, there are more facets to the songs, and the album as a whole. This, now, truly sounds like being transported to an early memory of suburbia; the street signs part of the geography of your heart, the people, the houses, the neighborhoods you know, that at the end of the day define your soul, your memory, define you. Where before the guitars, with admittedly admirable skill, would drift along lazily, now they seem to push forward, to bob and weave and, in the instance of a song like the gorgeous "The Bend" pop out and transfix you for 5, yes, simple, minutes, but in the context of the album, it's also unexpected and refreshingly dynamic. The band before seemed to be using a limited emotional palette that opposed the fundamental goal of Days, to connect with the listener and awaken the memory of a childhood suburbia. Here, the expanded (oh so gently, but instantly notable) musicality and the shades of melancholy, of gentle regret, now colored into the lyrics, make for a more complete and absorbing experience. With guitar pop that really pops, Real Estate become more than a sepia-tinged photograph of a band; they become a living memory of that place you once called home.