Real Estate – Atlas Real Estate – Atlas

Real Estate - Atlas (2014)

Real Estate – Atlas (2014)

I spent my senior year in college writing a thesis on cartography and identity in literature — poring over endless books and articles and maps, trying to articulate the way that the maps we create for ourselves often end up serving as maps of ourselves. I ended up with a 75-page academic document about Hamlet and Moby Dick and Ulysses, and the history of cartography. There were answers, but they were theoretical ones, about old maps and texts.

Then I graduated, moved 250 miles back home, and it all clicked. Most of my old friends were gone; my college friends had dispersed. Home no longer felt like home, and I felt like an interloper visiting campus in the fall. I could return to these places, but they would never be the same, and neither would I. Adulthood was no longer a faraway horizon but a sudden reality.

Real Estate‘s Atlas manages to wrestle elegantly with these issues: the yearning for the past of a place or a person, the uncertainty and lack of direction toward a future. The hazy, fuzzed-out sound of both the guitars and frontman Martin Courtney’s crooning vocals lend themselves to a feeling of wanderlust. They could be the soundtrack to a long road trip, or a drive home from the beach: you’re sleepy, buzzed, salty, and sandy, and the sun is low and orange in the sky. It’s easy to listen in a passive, almost aimless sort of way, letting the sound wash over you like the waves.

That said, Atlas does find some direction as the album progresses. The struggle and confusion in songs like “Had to Hear”, “Past Lives”, and “The Bend” give way to more precise orientation: finding one’s place by the stars, or the horizon, or even through the house and to a meeting place (“Primitive”, “Horizon”, and “Navigator” respectively).

The album’s one outlier is “How Might I Live”. With vocals by bassist Alex Bleeker and a noticeably more straightforward structure than the rest of the songs on Atlas, it sticks out like a sore thumb, managing to hit some of the themes but skewing them slightly.

All in all, Real Estate has put together not only a beautiful album but a thoughtful one, which stands as a (mostly) cohesive whole, both sonically and lyrically. The rambling polyphony of the guitar and bass lines buoy the listener from song to song, through lines that manage to be incisive about feeling unsure. There’s comfort and familiarity to be found here, as Courtney sings in “Past Lives”: “This is not the same place I used to know / But it still has that same old sound.”

Atlas Tracklist:

01 Had to Hear
02 Past Lives
03 Talking Backwards
04 April’s Song
05 The Bend
06 Crime
07 Primitive
08 How Might I Live
09 Horizon
10 Navigator

Real Estate - Atlas, reviewed by Caroline Mills on 2014-06-11T04:02:43-07:00 rating 4.1 out of 5

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