Real Estate - "It's Real" (mp3)
Imagine this: some sadist you met on Craigslist has you strapped in a chair, with your eyelids propped open (in the manner of A Clockwork Orange), and is forcing you to watch a ten-second video of the kind of beach scene most people find relaxing, a GIF file fit for an office worker’s screensaver. Palm trees sway in a light breeze; a cawing seagull swoops in and out of frame; crystalline ocean waves crash and spray onto a powdery shore. The scene repeats. Over. And over. And over. Again. And again. And again. At first the vista is undoubtedly appealing, and remains so for the length of, oh, about a minute or so. Before long, the serenity you once felt gives way to mild irritation, then resentment, then white-hot rage. You find your sanity cracking and begin to long for a dull blade with which to emancipate yourself from your four limbs. How long before you begin to wonder, how could something once so appealing become an object of torture? And, more importantly, why did I volunteer to do this?
Real Estate’s second album Days is akin to this thought experiment in kind, if not in magnitude. Fire up the album and hit shuffle. No matter which of its ten tracks you get, you’ll hear jangly lead-guitar plucks intertwined with warm rhythm-guitar strums, hazy vocals (by guitarist Martin Courtney) hidden in a muddy mix, and lyrics that center on either the romantic, the quotidian, the Jersey Shore (no relation to the MTV show, for once), or some combination of the three. (No lyrics? Then you’re listening to “Kinder Blumen,” the lone instrumental on Days. Kindly skip and try again.)
You’ll probably really enjoy the song.
But Days turns to Eons the more you listen. Perhaps it’s the simple, albeit charming, melodies the band constructs that repeat and meander for long stretches and seem to enter endless sonic cul-de-sacs. Perhaps it’s the songs’ unmoored dreaminess that floats them up and out of your ears into the ether. Perhaps it’s the listlessness of their structure that defies any attempt to recall them five minutes later. Whatever it is, Days numbs with its sameness, its tedium, its anonymity, and —yes — its beauty. Don’t be surprised if you’re longing for a stiff drink of distortion and experimentation by the time you get to the unfortunately titled final track “All the Same.”
Make no mistake, Days is a gorgeous album. Even apart from highlights such as “Easy,” “It’s Real,” and “Out of Tune,” it abounds with top notch Dream Pop. And when taken sparingly, it satisfies. But Days exemplifies the lazy rock critic’s favorite four words: “for what it is.” For what it is, a slog for sure, but also a singular entity, Days is a small success. With a great deal of editing, and a few more ideas, Real Estate could have done better and produced an album worthy of repeated listens, without the aid of a sadist.