The current glut of beach music comes in all forms now, from sprightly punk to scuzzy lo-fi , and you have every right to wonder what gives—but not when it comes to Real Estate. The four Jersey-bred high school friends who, since the beginning of the year, have been releasing a stream of singles to a growing legion of fans, have pulled together a full-length debut that stands on its own, separated from the pack by its carefully cultivated style while indulging in the bittersweet nostalgia that the scene capitalizes on.
First, there's the sound: they're almost a jam band, almost a hallucinogenic drone band, almost a straightforward pop band. Frequent comparisons to Yo La Tengo and Galaxie 500 are fair but don't account for their dogged concentration on balance and tone. They achieve a very specific, very stylized aesthetic where Martin Courtney's non-descript vocals are cloaked in just the right amount of reverb, the bass is slightly slinky or slightly bouncy, the guitar whines but never strains, and the drums are present but crash-free. On the rare occasion that one steps up and takes charge—the slide guitar on "Black Lake" pines and digs a bit deeper than the others—the remaining three back off, employing an in-house system of checks and balances to keep it mellow, man. The album, then, comes across as one long, floaty, idyllic piece of work.
Then there's the feel. They're cut from the same cloth as Vampire Weekend—recent college grads brought up in an upper middle-class neighborhood—taking one for the suburban slacker. Florida vacations, a song consisting only of the line, "Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?" and the idea that maybe your life doesn't really suck all that much ("Fake Blues") provide the touchstones. They nail the classic twenty-something sentiment, that particular ache of not wanting to be a part of where you came from while never wanting to forget home, and above all else, never wanting summer to end.