As festival season progresses, hopefully lots of people will have an opportunity to doze in a sunny field while the songs of Real Estate drift by overhead. There’s a time and a place for the New Jersey band’s gentle jangle, and I’m not convinced it’s in a dark sweaty Roundhouse at their biggest London show yet.
With that deliberately bland band name, across four albums they’ve offered a subdued, suburban sound that finds poetry far from the scuzzy cliches of rock and roll. Even the departure of guitarist Matt Mondanile, who quit recently to focus on his Ducktails band, hasn’t rocked their relaxed world.
Martin Courtney’s lyrics often look to nature. There’s lots of sun and sky. Darling, from their latest, In Mind, saw him singing softly of “The black and yellow finches that nest in our new ferns.” On two Arrows, this father of two offered music of contentment – free of anger or heartbreak, longing for nothing: “I’ll meet you in the morning/Beyond that I got no plans.”
As the show wound on, Courtney’s chiming guitar augmented with intricate notes from new lead guitarist Julian Lynch, similar songs began to melt into one another. Deciding to alter the unhurried mood with the pacier Talking Backwards, and a mild singalong on It’s Real, was more appealing than the dragged out, seasick sounds of Two Arrows’ second half. Four albums in, they are in danger of finding themselves in a sonic dead end, but for an hour or so, it’s a nice place to be.