With ‘In Mind’ Real Estate are back to their jingly-jangly best. I first became aware of the group when a friend told me to listen to their second studio album ‘Days’. Has there been a better penned pop song in the 2000s than third track ‘It’s Real’? Certainly not one under three minutes I’d argue. The problem with creating such a classic tune, of course, is the challenge that then presents itself in equaling or bettering it. That is not to say ‘Days’ isn’t a solid album throughout, I certainly wasn’t skipping any of the tracks, but it did mean by the time their third LP ‘Atlas’ came out I was, in a sense, waiting and anticipating a standout moment which perhaps never quite came. That’s not to casually dismiss the record – it’s still well worth your time. It just didn’t quite scale the dreamy heights of ‘Days’ for me personally. With some time away from Real Estate, ‘In Mind‘ has now breezed its way into my daily music listening and I’m in no way pining for ‘Days’.
If you’ve heard the band you’ll know their distinctively warm, clean and measured approach to songs and this record is, generally speaking, no different in that respect. The opening synth of ‘Darling’ might fool you for a second but, sure enough, in comes a guitar line that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by The Byrds. However, without ever blowing up into a full on, mind-melting trip, Real Estate have always, for me, teetered pleasingly on the brink of the psychedelic and this is perhaps more evident than ever on this new record, where occasional left-turns furnish your ears with some delectably gratifying audio treasure. Does that sound a bit over the top? Sorry. As Zappa, amongst others, is crediting as having stated, ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.’ But listen and you’ll hopefully know what I’m driving at.
And what’s this after two and a half minutes of the appropriately titled ‘Serve The Song’? Is that the gain being turned up? Careful lads or we’ll be in Grateful Dead jamming territory before too long. With ‘Two Arrows’ heading towards seven minutes in length, again we have further evidence of a straying into more distorted and trippy surroundings, which proves most welcome, but ‘Diamond Eyes’ is nevertheless fleeting proof that this is a group that won’t be abandoning short, sharp songs just yet. ‘Same Sun’ contains within it what seems a beautiful exercise in tape-saturated melancholy, be it real or digital, just hear the wow/flutter on that guitar part, with the backing vocals really making this tune soar.
Finally, the intro to final track ‘Saturday’, all woozy, reverb-laden piano, leaves the lasting impression Real Estate, whilst still serving up the somewhat reliable sound they’re known for, cleverly avoiding leaving ardent fans shortchanged whether they consciously made this a priority or not, are in fact an outfit more than capable of surprising as well. This is an album full of off-kilter charm. Take it as medicine.