Real Estate, “In Mind”
“Darling,” the first song off Real Estate’s fourth studio album, is catchy, features pleasant arpeggio chords and lots of chorus pedal, and has an instantly agreeable sound—all common traits of the sound that the band has wielded since their beloved “Suburban Dogs” days. But there’s a difference to the chime: since the departure of founding member and guitarist Matt Mondanile, who left to focus on his solo project Ducktails, the group has recruited longtime friend Julian Lynch to take Mondanile’s place on guitar.
When their self-titled debut came out in 2009, it was highly praised for its accurate reflection of contented malaise. Following that debut, Real Estate composed two more excellent albums full of songs that shake out from their chosen topic—lazy days, somber insecurities, minor victories in love, entire lives lived out in cul-de-sacs, sleepy poolsides, and quiet stretches of East Coast beach. The records are charming, easy to listen to, and achieve a strange uplift through a sadness so subtle it comes out glad.
Now, eight years on, Real Estate has arrived with In Mind. Like previous Real Estate records, it washes over the listener, pleasantly blending into the background. The difference, however, is that In Mind is arguably at its best when it’s just that: in the background. Closer attention reveals an underutilization of drums, overly affected (and effected) guitars, and some occasionally hokey lyrics about “the distance to the next star [being] less than the one between our hearts.”
In Mind has definite strengths, but the album falls short of the casual, effortless charm that defined Real Estate as a central force in indie rock for nearly a decade. Hopefully new guitarist Lynch can find a way to bring second life to a band that has just taken on its first major obstacle: the loss of a founder. But that will have to be next time.