If only the easy listening genre wasn’t already dedicated to orchestras and big bands and voices made famous decades ago. If only it was accepting new albums into its category. Because Atlas would absolutely define it. Here’s an album dedicated to the kind of sweet, streamlined guitar pop that, in a better world, could bring us world peace. It’s easy and free, sailing along serene waves and stealing all our bad feelings to bury them at the bottom of the ocean.
It’s nostalgic and reflective, regretful and romantic. But underneath the lyrics, what really shines is the gooey guitar that Real Estate has been using to bring us in since its 2009 self-titled debut. But the more hi-fi this New Jersey-based fivesome ventures, the better we can hear each perfect reverb-soaked riff. With each album, they grow something even more expansive and warm.
The first single, “Talking Backwards” is peppy and charming, but it’s not until the heart of the album when Real Estate unleashes the real meat. “Primitive” just so wonderfully encompasses the power of harmonies coupled with a great melody. Pure sap, the lyrics scoop listeners into that ideal romance. “Don’t know where I want to be/But I’m glad that you’re with me/And all I know is it’d be easy to me.” And, knowing when to stop the mush, the band ends the song with a minute and a half of noodling guitar jams. Those instrumental interludes are interspersed through Atlas, giving the songs room to breath, and reminding us that music is about a feeling.
That’s not to downplay the moments when the band catches you with its hooks. It’s truly exhilarating to hear a chorus so sticky that your heart beats faster each time it returns. “Had to Hear,” the opening track, feeds some sort of pop obsession with simple, perhaps nonsensical rhymes. “I had to hear you/Just to feel near you/I know it’s not true/But it’s been so long/I know it’s wrong.” Real Estate is just really good at crafting songs that feel easy and natural. And if we can’t squeeze them into the easy listening genre, and do it in a complimentary fashion, we’ll just have to invent an entirely new, equally accurate term to describe this little spot in heaven.