Real Estate
Daniel


3.8
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
February 19th, 2024 | 14 replies


Release Date: 02/23/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unexpected rejuvenation

It’s always sad when a favorite artist loses the plot. For me, Real Estate was a prime example of this phenomenon, with their periodic output in the last ten years showing a seemingly irreversible drift into mediocrity. As such, I planned to review the band’s sixth LP, Daniel, more with foreboding than anticipation. Indeed, despite my best efforts to avoid preconceived notions about upcoming albums, I’ll admit that in my head I even had a snarky review summary picked out - “turns out that Real Estate is actually a depreciating asset” - for when the album inevitably turned out to be the group’s fourth-straight release which was worse than the one before it.

For what it’s worth, I don’t actually hate any of those previous three releases. 2017’s In Mind or 2020’s The Main Thing (or even the very iffy 2021 EP Half A Human), on their own merits, are fairly decent, pleasantly chill with some highlight tracks. Their problem is that prime-era Real Estate was basically the same, just far better. At their peak, that is to say Days or Atlas, the shtick was simply that, out of the myriad artists making chill-as-fuck jangly little indie pop tunes, they were one of the best by virtue of superior catchiness and an engagingly malaise-capturing sense of mood. When, after 2014, this magic dissipated quickly through lack of sufficient hooks and vibe, it was immediately clear the band no longer stood above the level of their competition, and I was afraid that change was permanent - “the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back”, in the words of the great Gordon Lightfoot.

But something strange happened along this familiar road to nowhere: it turns out that new album Daniel marks an unexpected rejuvenation for this New Jersey band. The record’s headlining fact is that Daniel Tashian, previously noted for producing Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, has been brought in for production duties. In truth, the production here is well-executed, but doesn’t strike me as dramatically different from that on Real Estate’s previous outings, but the shakeup nonetheless seems to have done the band some real good. For one thing, this new LP features the collective’s most overtly memorable and catchy tunes in a long while, while the album also feels quite coherent and flows well. In addition, Tashian’s Nashville background seems to have rubbed off a bit on Real Estate - while the band has occasionally incorporated country/folk tendencies on a handful of songs before, this album sees a wider influence from those genres (if mostly rather subtle). In particular, late in the tracklist “Victoria” feels more like an open country tune than anything else, and the group’s normal five-man lineup is joined by Justin Schipper playing pedal steel for a grand total of five of the record’s eleven tracks.

The biggest selling point of Daniel, particularly when compared to much of Real Estate’s (fairly limp) recent material, is that a bunch of these songs are quite distinctive on an individual basis. Tracks like opener “Somebody New” or the very catchy highlight “Water Underground” feature shiny hooks which fit nicely into the band’s familiar jangly presentation, while other tracks manage to stand out by subverting the band’s traditional formulas. The record’s centerpiece, “Freeze Brain”, for example, is enlivened by its underlying rhythms, while the final one-two punch of the crunchy guitar of “Market Street” and the pensive closer “You Are Here” also stand out. “You Are Here” is particularly notable, feeling wholly unique within Real Estate’s discography - an airy and contemplative piece which sprawls out, feeling longer than in its five minute runtime (in a good way). It might not represent the kind of music this band does best, but it’s intriguing and well-executed nonetheless, serving as icing on the cake for an album which demonstrates that Real Estate are willing and able to shift things up to keep things fresh.

While there’s plenty of praise to be doled out, it’s worth noting that Daniel does benefit from the low bar of minimal expectation after several disappointing releases. When compared with the consistent delights of Days or Atlas, this is an album which will inevitably be found wanting. While every song here is at least “pretty good”, a sizable chunk of the tracklist here falls into that zone, worthy of a compliment, but only a rather ambivalent one. “Haunted World”, for example, delivers a suitable sense of gentle melancholia, but as an earworm, everything feels a tad forced. Meanwhile, on the album’s back half, the fuzzy “Airdrop” leans a bit too hard on the anticipated profoundness of the repeated line “the sun went down, we let it”, and falls flat alongside it. Therefore, this album might be best characterized as a mixed bag, if a breezy and eminently likable one. In the end, that’s more than enough, as Daniel delivers the twofold triumphs of, first, delivering satisfactorily upon the band’s original talent for hooks and vibe, and second, demonstrating enough variety to suggest that Real Estate doesn’t intend to forever languish in their comfort zone to diminishing returns. I’ll take it.



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user ratings (28)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2024


5815 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Album is out this Friday, Feb 23rd.



Don't want to oversell it, given the band's recent works haven't set the bar too high, but I'd expect longtime fans to dig this a decent amount. Their best since Atlas in my book.

Odal
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2024


1942 Comments


Awesome review, man.

I legitimately had no idea this was even coming out. I feel so old knowing this band's heyday was nearly a decade ago lol I am looking forward to giving it a spin

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 19th 2024


5815 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks Odal! Yeah, you and me too (feeling old). I believe I first started listening to this band when Atlas came out, and then discovered their earlier works, so while I haven't been with them for the whole trip, I've been jamming Real Estate for a whole decade now. Happy to have a new release from them exceed expectations, as it hasn't been the case for me in a while.

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2024


3950 Comments


Cool! Atlas is amazing, always wanted to like Days more… Excited to check this out. Great review sunny

cylinder
February 23rd 2024


2302 Comments


cool album cover

JohnZapp
February 23rd 2024


159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really liked this on first listen

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
February 23rd 2024


16587 Comments


loved Days and Atlas. will check

lucazade22
February 24th 2024


792 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is fun!

Hawks
February 24th 2024


86681 Comments


Gonna jam this ahrd tonight.

tom79
February 24th 2024


3935 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely their best since Atlas (even if that's not saying a ton). I've spun it twice and enjoyed it, they do sound rejuvenated in a way (I did enjoy Martin Courtney's recent solo lp as well). Great review!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2024


5815 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks folks! Glad to see some people vibin' with this, at least moderately.

JohnZapp
February 26th 2024


159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Giving this way more listens than the MGMT album. It’s just a really nice, catchy album that doesn’t bore me at all

SmurkinGherkin
April 4th 2024


2139 Comments


Days and atlas formed a large part of my uni soundscape will need to check this out

SmurkinGherkin
April 4th 2024


2139 Comments


Can't believe atlas came out 10 years ago lol jesus christ



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