Personnel: Matthew Mondanile (guitar); Etienne Pierre Duguay (drums).
At first, Real Estate seems like another in a long line of cryptically Google-proof band names, but the group's self-titled album proves that their moniker makes perfect sense. The band excels at finding the bittersweet, whimsical, and poetic in everyday suburban life -- the real life behind real estate. They carry on this tradition from bands like Pavement, and echoes of that band's laid-back, rough-around-the-edges beauty can be heard in their hazy jangle (shades of Galaxie 500, the Clean, Yo La Tengo and Oh, Inverted World-era Shins soft-focus melancholy also pop up from time to time). It's no coincidence that two of Real Estate's finest moments have "suburban" in their titles. "Suburban Dogs" spins a tale of comfortable confinement, its looping melody and guitars reinforcing its gentle constriction as Martin Courtney sings "suburban dogs are in love with their chains." And while "Suburban Beverage"'s lyrics -- which consist mostly of "Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel all right?" -- aren't nearly as profound, the song's hypnotic warmth and epic length make it just as much of a standout. The band's unabashedly pretty melodic sensibilities shine through on almost every track, making a nice contrast with their simple playing and not-quite lo-fi sound quality on pure pop songs like "Fake Blues" and "Green River," as well as the more abstract instrumentals "Atlantic City" and "Let's Rock the Beach." While most of the album has a summery vibe, its closing track, "Snow Days," shows that Real Estate's classic melodies and crisp harmonies capture February just as well as June. Though half of Real Estate was already released by the band as singles and EPs, that just adds to the album's instantly familiar feel -- which is a large part of this unassuming debut album's appeal. ~ Heather Phares