The abbreviated story of Real Estate's formation almost plays like a variation on the film Garden State: four friends living in New Jersey play together in different bands all throughout high school, one of which being a Weezer cover band. Then the vocalist/guitarist (Martin Courtney) moves away to the west coast to go to college, and comes back some time later, after which the foursome reforms, and Real Estate is born. Much like fellow surf rock/indie pop blend enthusiasts Girls (both bands also carry the badge of indie coolness that is a Pitchfork "best new music" label, very exciting), Real Estate's debut is startlingly on the money - impressive melodies, a slightly psychedelic atmosphere, and just enough twang to the guitars to make them stand out; sounding almost as the Beach Boys might had been a bleak indie band in the late 00's. Though however weighty the spacey sadness to Real Estate's self titled effort may feel at times, the melodies throughout are utterly gorgeous, which is particularly noteworthy given how simple the songs are.
Real Estate is one of those bands that benefit from a more lo-fi sound, as they can embrace the haze engulfing their music as opposed to simply drowning in it. Beach Comber and Pool Swimmer show their penchant for establishing minimalist atmosphere right away, each with a very simple harmony but with such charisma that you're lured in right away; the harmonizing heard throughout the latter in particular is somewhat mesmerizing. Up next is the "Pavement, is that you?" of Suburban Dogs; the lo-fi pioneers' influence is heard especially here, and is unmistakable in Courtney's chants of "Back home" near the end, after drearily singing about how "Suburban dogs are in love with their chains" and pleading "Carry me back to sweet Jersey," as if to prove the song's point.
The album's second half runs as smooth and briskly as the first, even with a six minute song (the longest here by a reasonable stretch) in the middle. Suburban Beverage, in spite of its length, breezes by quite quickly, largely due to its many quick, yet laid back transitions. Gradually though, the song builds up steam toward the fade out end (even though it never becomes anything truly aggressive). Let's Rock the Beach, the second instrumental (the first being the very brief but lovely Atlantic City), showcases the great chemistry between the members, particularly bassist Alex Bleeker and guitarists Courtney and Mathew Mondanile. The instrumental is nearly five minutes, but again, it breezes by, as it is very easy to get lost in their playing on this incredibly soothing track. Snow Days closes things out with a short and gentle vocal harmony followed by another quick melodic jam session, with unexpectedly vigorous drumming from Etienne Duguay.
The Jersey boys go through ten songs in about forty minutes, but given how deceptively tight the group's sound is, it seems much, much quicker; there certainly is something to be said for being able to cram so much atmosphere into such a small package. Real Estate's self titled debut is a great example of why indie subgenres are on the rise at the moment; they've toyed with the basic elements of the sound until they've produced something that's not quite new, but still close enough to be completely unique.