November 15, 2010



Douglas Martin’s greatest aspiration in life is to be exactly like Roger Sterling.

Due to their easygoing nature, Real Estate receives a lot of genuine compliments that sound like backhanded compliments. They’ve been described as mild and contented. They’ve been described as music that sounds like nothing. Both descriptions sound like slights against the band, but both are accurate. The songs peacefully amble along, only delivering a climactic moment at the coda of their self-titled debut’s highlight “Suburban Beverage”. The song’s only lyric? “Budweiser, Sprite/Do you feel alright?” Game, set, match. When you think about it, listening to Real Estate is much like being seated at a dinner party hosted by Betty Draper.

Much like the character January Jones plays on Mad Men, the songs of Real Estate are gorgeous, but in an unremarkably traditional way. They’re demure and polite, never getting too drunk or creeping past the boundaries of the inside voice. They’re fairly interesting and tremendously charming, but come across as a little blank and vapid if you only spend a short time in their presence. But once the dishes are picked up and the guests go home, there’s a side of Real Estate that never shows its face in the presence of esteemed company. The band is quite gifted at opening a deceptively complex window to the world of suburbia, revealing a distinctively upper-middle-class sense of loneliness, disappointment, and hopelessness while casting them inside of neat wrapping paper and a perfectly tied bow.

“Out of Tune” is a quintessential Real Estate song, carrying all of the hallmarks of the band’s signature sound in its 4:50 running time, from the interlocking guitars of frontman Martin Courtney and guitarist Matthew Mondanile (he also of the outstandingly named solo project Ducktails) to Courtney’s wistful, melancholy vocals. Recorded in the same place as a great deal of the emotionally striking psych-folk of Woods by the band’s Jarvis Taveniere, the flange on Mondanile’s guitar– coupled with the spacey, airy synths that float throughout the song (played by Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin)– provides a Technicolor vividness that was displayed in a wide array of blacks, whites, and greys on their self-titled record. While the aural components of “Out of Tune” is up in the clouds, the lyricism has both feet planted firmly on the ground.

“You play songs that were written for you,” Courtney sings in his emotive high tenor, ostensibly about the disconnect between our flowery imaginations and the cold, monochromatic scope of reality, “but you’re all out of tune.” Writing about the vast canyon between what you want and what happens when you actually get it is one of Real Estate’s greatest strengths. The other is encasing those themes in such slight, unassuming bodies of music, making listeners unaware of the tension that lies beneath. Some of the most compelling people are the ones who hide all of their complexities behind their smile. Just ask Betty Draper

MP3: Real Estate-“Out of Tune”

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!