Release Date: Nov 17, 2009
Record label: Woodsist
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
In today’s culture, the blogosphere moves with such spitting tenacity, and wields such a ruly force over independent music, that once-loved darlings of the self-appointed press become enemies of the state before their first scrap of music is ever officially turned out for public consumption. While the whole issue of today’s scene vs. yesterday’s scene is, of course, one of subjectivity, the issue over the immediacy of release and influence—and the rapidly diminishing gap between the two—is one of absolutely no debate.
Real Estate were born in the depths of one New Jersey summer. Frontman Martin Courtney had just returned home to his native Ridgewood from college in Washington State, a few fresh songs in his pockets. He'd been playing music with bassist Alex Bleeker and guitarist Matthew Mondanile since high school in various forms, even covering Weezer and the Strokes records from tip to tail.
At first, Real Estate seems like another in a long line of cryptically search-proof band names, but the group’s self-titled album proves that their moniker makes perfect sense. The band excels at finding the bittersweet, whimsical, and poetic in everyday suburban life -- the real life behind real estate. They carry on this tradition from bands like Pavement, and echoes of that band’s laid-back, rough-around-the-edges beauty can be heard in their hazy jangle (shades of Galaxie 500, the Clean, Yo La Tengo and Oh, Inverted World-era Shins soft-focus melancholy also pop up from time to time).
They fit right in with the “chillwave” movement (or “glo-fi,” or whatever the hell it’s called this week), but the members of Real Estate aren’t interested in chronicling the hoary tropes of good-ass times on the beach cruising for fun like every new band with “surfer” in their name. No, the New Jersey quartet is wistful for a different kind of summer, the summer spent in shitty basements with wood-paneled walls and a lonely oscillating fan for circulation, watching Happy Days re-runs while slouched on a flower-patterned sofa, just biding time and taking up space until it’s time to hit your low-paying summer job or to try in vain to find someone of age to buy you some beer. Real Estate is the kind of album that the kid from Adventureland would listen to if that movie was set in 2009.
As 2009 wound down, we were starting to see a wave of new artists who’d already made their mark in the music blogosphere. With hopes of receiving a smudge of recognition, it makes sense to release an album early on with much anticipation to carry on the wheel of momentum. In the case of Real Estate, the odds aren’t really in their favour. Could they compete with a November release, alongside a slew of operatic Christmas albums, reissue box sets, or already established powerhouse independent releases? Case number two for an imminent crumple: release a surf-inspired 60’s lo-fi record when all the beach boys have long put out the bonfire and rightfully tailored their coats.