Real Estate‘s laid-back, clean-electric guitar indie sound is always critically-acclaimed, but rarely particularly jaw-dropping. When craving excitement or provocative new sounds, it can even feel a bit dull – but, as Pete Seeger (RIP) and The Byrds once sang: “a time to every purpose under heaven.” On Atlas, their mellow mood is like a warm, comforting cup of soup – it’s needed when you’re sick or rained in on a Sunday, but fails to satisfy when you want hot wings or a five-alarm pizza-burger (whatever tastes good, we don’t judge). Some of the RIFFs below reflect the occasional stimulation-craving frustration we experienced over the past week, but there might be no other (young) band doing what they do so well.

Had to Hear

It’s likely the caffeine talking, but tracks like this can be a bore unless you’re reflecting on your life – perhaps either supremely hungover, or at age 40-plus. Vague longing, breezy clean guitars, etc.; leave that to vets like YLT, play with some balls! (or gender-neutral equivalent): [LISTEN]

"Had to Hear"

Past Lives

Following the likes of Devendra BanhartYo La Tengo, etc., Real Estate go the pseudo-bossa nova route to express a reflective return to the suburb from whence they came. They aim to set themselves apart with a veritable onslaught of chords, but still sound quite like the aforementioned names: [LISTEN]

"Past Lives"

Talking Backwards

Lyricist Martin Courtney is just oh-so ‘charmingly befuddled.’ The track epitomizes self-conscious indie beta male stereotypes as Courtney sings of getting tongue-tied in flirty situations. It chugs along warmly and peacefully, but does nothing of interest to warrant the hype: [LISTEN]

"Talking Backwards"

April’s Song

Bringing some life to a previously subdued album, this little instrumental ditty is peppy and keeps moving with a pretty dense chord structure. I may be a sucker for instrumental tracks (especially from Sargent House artists), but this is my fave so far from this record: [LISTEN]


The Bend

The previous latin-y vibes of “Past Lives” are taken even higher here, as a background chirping sound reminds of the pre-programmed drum grooves from those organs always on CraigsList. The psychedelic outro solidly punctuates Courtney’s worries about being “in control” as time marches on, though: [LISTEN]

"The Bend"


Matching the nonchalance of this chilled-out, jangly afternoon love song/mumblecore soundtrack, the band released an instructional video complete with guitar tabs – an interesting move to involve the amateur guitarist listener, soothing your “crippling anxiety” through a shared experience: [LISTEN]



Following in Courtney’s wistful aimless feelings throughout the album as of yet, he throws a love interest into the mix: “Don’t know where I want to be/but I’m glad that you’re with me.” This aimlessness is depicted musically with more calm indie strumming, which Atlas has in spades: [LISTEN]


How Might I Live

This twangy ballad re-words cute ol’ “That’ll Be the Day,” but then self-contradicts: “Got to find the words to say you’re not the one I love.” Courtney’s confession fears are an interestingly sad slant, welcome at poorly-attended coffee shop open mics as much as on Pitchfork’s gush-list: [LISTEN]

"How Might I Live"


This album’s increasingly sounding like a less-catchy Nada Surf – largely due to Mark Courtney’s vocals. The boom-chuck rhythm is a nice touch, but this loving diatribe of reassurance doesn’t say much or particularly excite. But again, it fits a quiet, introspective day: [LISTEN]



The album’s cap follows the grooves set forth previously, but some choice lead guitar bathes the track in a dreamy light. Here, Courtney wonders “where the time went” on a wasted day that turns into a back-road rendezvous which perfectly fits Atlas’ sunset-of-life, aged feeling: [LISTEN]