Release Date: Feb 28, 2020
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
With their 2017 album In Mind, New Jersey indie drifters Real Estate began a very slow evolutionary process, changing up their time-honored formula of laid-back, jangly pop by gently introducing new sounds and ideas. A change in their long-running membership brought in new guitarist Julian Lynch, who carried over some of the world music-influenced sensibilities that marked his excellent solo work and his new gig. Fifth album The Main Thing continues the band's one-step-at-a-time stylistic development while underpinning their ever sunny tunes with unlikely themes of anxiety for future generations and apocalyptic dread.
Real Estate have been going for over a decade. While you’re processing that harrowing piece of history, and working out where you first found out about them, let’s just get one thing out of the way – The Main Thing is a great record. It’s not their best record, nor is their most adventurous, but it’s everything they do well, done well, and then done some more.
When a rock band enters its second decade, fatigue sets in, no matter how successful their previous albums. It's an existential problem most groups don't live long enough to face; many that do choose to disband, finding they've run out of important things to say or interesting ways to say them. Some veteran acts take a collaborative approach, bringing in outsiders to expand their sound--Yo La Tengo's annual Hanukkah performances have become a kind of indie-rock showcase, featuring younger artists like Snail Mail, while Conor Oberst found inspiration in kindred spirit Phoebe Bridgers.
The New Jersey group's last LP, In Mind, served as a refreshing kickstart after the departure of guitarist/co-founder, Matt Mondanile, but while The Main Thing surpasses In Mind with a slightly refocused formula, it remains an album with little-to-no huge surprises aside from a scattering of promising moments, and a fresh guest spot from Sylvan Esso 's Amelia Meath. In terms of a band five albums deep, Real Estate 's music has barely changed, but while they may stay rooted on the outskirts, there's a spark that exists. The opener, "Friday" is a simple example - standing as the album's most gorgeous moment, its uncomplicated build warmly encapsulates the group's aesthetic.
Just over a decade since introducing their surf-splashed strand of indie, 'The Main Thing' sees Real Estate switch untethered escapism for a more ambiguous route. Carrying a titular nod to Roxy Music's 'Avalon', the New Jersey group are found plying melancholia through a coming-of-age lens - adopting the latter album's creative maturity, if not its '80s sophisti-pop shimmer. In some sense, this slicker approach doesn't seem much of a surprise, having recently developed their own wine brand, but it does represent the band committing further to a less definable image.
"I've got this family, and I feel this responsibility to gild this crazy world," says Real Estate guitarist and songwriter Martin Courtney. The band have clearly discovered how cathartic and fulfilling it can be to make music that resonates with other people. And the aim to follow a personal path of inspiration, hoping to inspire and encourage that in people around them, is the concept behind this new project.