Recording information: Lucky's Meat Market, Los Angeles, California (2016); Lucy's Meat Market, Los Angeles, California (2016).
Photographer: Shawn Brackbill.
Probably the biggest news item surrounding 2017's In Mind, the fourth LP from sauntering daydreamers Real Estate, was the exit of founding member and lead guitarist Matt Mondanile, who left to focus on his solo project, Ducktails. Another Ridgewood, New Jersey native, Julian Lynch, stepped in, himself a veteran collaborator of member projects including Real Estate, Ducktails, and Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. It's hard to imagine a smoother transition on the beachside sunset of an album that is In Mind. The group sets the stage with the elegant, serpentine jangle of opener "Darling." With a mix that allows ears to pick out unobtrusive synths and individual guitar tones, separately as well as together, it has a hypnotic quality that's active rather than passive. That quality is only reinforced by mixed meters that throw off the feel, just a little, before falling back in line for those tapping out 4/4 time -- like riding out a wave. Meanwhile, Martin Courtney's vocal line, always calm and cottony in character, is only one of many overlaid melodies, including the bassline, as he sings of finches and ferns waiting "for the warm sun to return, impatiently, as I wait for you." Listeners are the ones on the receiving end of those evasive rays by virtue of the vocal delivery, guitar tones, imagery, extended chords, and languid melodies, ever simpatico. Those traits hold throughout the album, maintaining a sunny humidity without getting sleepy. They avoid any prolonged drifting with a base of subtly catchy tunes that offer regular moments of discovery. Production touches, like robotic effects on double-tracked vocals -- but only for a few passing phrases -- and the judicious use of drum samples on "Time," add flavor without snapping us out of good vibrations. Later, textures like wah effects ("Serve the Song"), hazy distortion ("Two Arrows"), spacy timbres ("Holding Pattern"), and the harpsichord-like riffs that color the uptempo jangle of "Stained Glass" add muscle and glimmer to the grain. Along with producer Cole M.G.N. (Beck, Julia Holter), Real Estate seems to both fine-tune and expand an already identifiable sound on In Mind, with engaging and often beautiful results. "A strong current will sweep you downstream/It would be best not to resist." ~ Marcy Donelson
Spin - "With their leisurely tempos and melodic warmth, Real Estate always seemed like they could've been a jam band; they've grown bolder about quoting the Grateful Dead as a formative influence in recent years..."
Magnet - "[An] effortless fourth album....[With] more winsome melodies and chiming, Christmassy guitar leads; more of Martin Courtney's hushed reflections on birds, music, shifting light, ambiguous contentment and other mild feelings."
Paste (magazine) - "Vocalist and songwriter Martin Courtney still crafts gorgeously unspooling melodies while sounding like he needs a hug, his songs cycling through images of long, boring days and lonely, sleepless nights."
Clash (magazine) - "`Serve The Song' is stretched out by a quick jam-band detour, and `Two Arrows' starts innocently before taking flight on the back of a head-spinning guitar and organ melee."