Thursday, February 3, 2011

Real Estate- s/t

It's strange to me that nostalgia for the 80s has only recently begun to infect indie rock. If the so-called hypnogogic/chillwave sub-genre is all about nostalgia and evoking the 80s while sounding purposefully retro, then the psychedelic pop of Real Estate and similar bands sounds like some alternate history where the 60s psychedelic culture grew out of surf rock and wasn't based primarily on blues and folk idioms. The result is bands that may sound or look hippie-ish, and in the case of Woods, they even stretch out their songs with elongated improvisations like the Grateful Dead, but they aren't really hippies, and their music isn't consciously retro. Hell, you may mistake Woods for 60s holdouts, but their label is one of the few actually putting out albums on cassette. So are they retro/nostalgic for the 60s or the 80s?

There is nothing overtly retro sounding about Real Estate. The syrupy smooth guitars may be signs of 60s worship, but this is just on first listen. The band's self titled debut is every bit as close to less obvious points of comparison, like the dream-pop/slowcore of Galaxie 500 as well as a host of early-to-late-90s indie rock of a hazy, relaxed variety, like Eric's Trip. What's more, the opening of 'Atlantic City' reminds me a bit of the 'surf' version of 'Wave Of Mutilation' by the Pixies. But I digress.

There's an easy going vibe to Real Estate that I find infectious. Whereas The Sea and Cake, long running masters of the indie rock easy-going-vibe category, have an austerity and experimental nature to their music, Real Estate are like the guys who record on a thrift store 4-track, spend their weekends drinking beer and smoking pot, and pen lyrics about the behavior of suburban dogs (the aptly titled 'Suburban Dogs') or conversational snippets like "Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?" ('Suburban Beverage'). The repetitive, hypnotic jam that closes this latter track is among the album's highlights. It keeps threatening to pick up speed and self-destruct, but the band keep riding the groove and adding minor changes here and there without ever truly achieving lift-off.

The instrumental 'Let's Rock The Beach' is at the heart of what this album is about. If you've listened to enough music, this track will be instantly familiar, falling into popular melodic tropes and rhythmic dynamics as the guitarists dance around each other. It's exceptionally well done yet somehow unremarkable. By extension, this covers my feelings for the album, too. Real Estate is the sort of enjoyable, low stakes indie album with a refreshing lack of pretense or artifice that will never win awards or change the world. Impossible to hate, difficult to fully love, Real Estate is a good little album, endlessly playable but only rarely remarkable.

4 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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