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Collectif de songwriters surdoués, Real Estate a composé son nouvel album, Atlas, en parcourant les routes américaines et européennes.
Enregistré dans le studio de Wilco avec Tom Shick (Sean Lennon, Low...), Atlas peaufine avec élégance la vision artistique toute particulière qui a fait le charme de son prédécesseur, Days (2011).
Evoquant les virées le long des routes boisées, les randonnées à la campagne et les soirs d'été vaporeux, les chansons du groupe font écho aux mélodies de Galaxie 500, You La Tengo, Neu, Nick Drake ou Pavement :
une forme d'impressionnisme typiquement américain, précis et tendu, traversé d'une douce mélancolie.
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J'aime particulièrement le morceau Primitive.
3,5 serait plus honnête comme score.
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Martin Courtney has a voice that is simple and plainspoken. He delivers lyrics about longing, lamenting yesterday, and being content with today as if he's in conversation with an old friend. There's no melodramatic delivery. Just a sligthly stoned sleepiness that comes with long drives back home for holiday or staying up till 2am drinking coffee with a long lost friend in a 24 hour diner down by the piers. Matt Mondanile has turned his crystalline jangly guitar work into a true art form. There's nothing flashy about what he does, yet there's something almost transcendent in the lines he plays on "Crime", and the country-ish sway of "Primitive". Alex Bleeker adds an almost orchestral touch to his rolling bass lines. Both reminiscent of Nashville swing and Philly soul. Jackson Pollis lays a steady beat throughout Atlas and newest member Matt Kallman fills the already lush sound with keys. With this lineup Real Estate has become this very tight band that shows some road worn muscle on this album. There aren't any major changes in sound and style from 2011s excellent Days; just a honed-in concentration with the songs. The tunes are as long as they need to be. Nothing more or nothing less. And the songs are the best these New Jersey guys have penned. It helps that both Mondanile and Bleeker both have their own musical projects outside the Real Estate fold. I think this allows the band to concentrate solely on Real Estate, and not a "who gets what credit" sort of ego trip. So songs like "The Bend", "Horizon", "How I Might Live", and "Navigator" can be as simple yet perfect as they can be.
With bands like Real Estate where members have other things going on outside the band I get worried that those other projects will take precedent over the main gig. And especially with Real Estate I worry an album like Atlas could be their last. I wonder to myself how they can do better than this jangly little wonder of an album? I mean, if you were gonna call it quits this would be the album you'd want people to remember you for.
It's perfect. In every way.
Had To Hear – A nice little lead riff leads in a song that recalls the debut album but through the clean production lens of Days. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Past Lives - Arguably the most Yo La Tengo-esque track on the album, a warm 70's keyboard and ride cymbal keep tempo as Martin laments over memories of the long-lost suburbs, in keeping with Real Estate tradition.
Talking Backwards - It's obvious why this song was chosen as the single. The fastest, most uptempo track of the bunch, Talking Backwards is an instant classic and shows how much the band has grown in the last year.
April's Song - An instrumental that sounds like montage music for a bunch of people having a good time on a road trip. This song will find its place on many mix CDs to come. Blissful, hazy perfection.
The Bend - The background sounds like a chorus of crickets giving this track major nighttime vibes. Easily the most introspective track on the album.
Crime - Reminiscent of that early-90's hit "Big Me" by Foo Fighters. Intricate riffs and pleasant echoey chords abound. Long live the electric guitar.
Primitive – This song could very possibly be the next single. A bit more melancholy than their usual fare but when the chorus rolls around, it's such a sweet relief.
How Might I Live - Was this song recorded in 1972? Everything about this song smacks of the era's nature-obsessed folk rock (in the best way possible, of course) with Bleeker's twangy voice taking center stage.
Horizon – Fresh off the down-South folkiness of the last track, Horizon retains a very western folk guitar and bass interplay that complement the vocals nicely with pastoral lyrics that tie the whole thing together.
Navigator - The chorus breathes and really let's the lyrics sink in. The tableau is one of minute beauty. "Cross the kitchen floor / steal out the back door / past the monument / I'll meet you where the pavement ends." Like a short story by Raymond Carver, this song isn't so much about what is said but rather what has been left unsaid.
Despite the fact that Real Estate's guitar playing will always sound wistful and classic in a way very few bands can pull off, Atlas seems to shy away from the overtly nostalgic intentions of Days, instead focusing on a new chapter of life; one fraught with miscommunication (Talking Backwards), occasional regression (Past Lives), and reluctantly forging a path into adulthood (Crime). As Real Estate continues to hone in on their sound, the production only grows more lush and the songs more meaningful. We'll be hearing from the guys for a long, long time.