A while ago, I wrote about Ducktails, one of the projects of Matthew Mondanile from New Jersey. Now, Woodsist is putting out the debut album by a band he plays guitar in, Real Estate, that might be if anything even better.
“Real Estate” has a very similar dazed, heat-damaged atmosphere to Ducktails – a generally baked nostalgia for summer childhoods, reductively – and there’s a comparable grasp of melody which is gentle and ebbing, rather than forceful. But while Mondanile uses that to make fuzzy, pop/ambience, Real Estate cultivate the same vibes with a spare, jangly indie sound that has already, and understandably, won them comparisons – in the press release, at least – with New Jersey antecedents The Feelies and also The Clean.
In that last Ducktails blog, I mentioned something about how Mondanile was at his least effective when he worked towards more orthodox songforms. But here, on the likes of “Pool Swimmers”, it’s clear that the songs are actually, in their own discreet way, rather strong. The comparison I made with Felt holds some water again, not least because Real Estate manage to make a very thin, fey guitar sound come across as somehow mysterious and alluring, rather than tinny and winsome.
There’s also something about Martin Courtney’s voice, especially on “Beach Comber” and “Fake Blues”, the way it sits tentatively, unsteadily just behind the prickly mesh of guitars, that is reminiscent of very early Stone Roses, perhaps; when Ian Brown was defined more by stealth than by arrogance.
I may start talking about how the Bluetones initially and fleetingly seemed like a good idea, so perhaps some hipper contemporary references might help sell this lovely little record. There are definite affinities with some of the other new lo-fi bands around, most notably the excellent Ganglians, and maybe also Kurt Vile, when Real Estate build up a certain skinny, reverberant momentum around “Suburban Beverage” (Yo La Tengo might be worth mentioning, too).
As the album goes on, in fact, it seems to drift further out of focus and into some kind of blissful chugging reverie, with Mondanile and Courtney’s guitars amiably running rings round each other, in no evident hurry to get anywhere. The effect is charming and beatific, and, as mentioned, very like The Feelies.
Finally, there’s a song called “Snow Days”. Among publicists, there’s been an understandable but often pretty random habit this year of comparing new acts to Fleet Foxes; the Balearic/prog/MOR record that came billed as such being a particular winner. I suspect Real Estate wouldn’t be hugely enamoured with the comparison, but “Snow Days” has a similar dewy calmness to it, a folksy, borderline preternatural calm that could easily come across as precious, but is actually rather beguiling. Have a listen at their Myspace.