Real Estate is a band that hits the sweet spot between easy, ingratiating pop and obscure, ponderous post-rock. Their first, self-titled album hit me like a glass of champagne on an empty stomach, with a wash of warm nostalgia and sunny feelings. This one announces itself with the cover: a line of empty concrete bungalows under a gloomy sky. Still, above it all, the happy, retro "Real Estate" band logo floats reassuringly. And that's how this album feels. The nostalgia is there, but while the first album seemed to be a soundtrack for a June day at a beach house, this one is the soundtrack for sitting inside that beach house, watching the sun set over a deserted beach at 6 pm, as winter closes in. The blue surf has turned grey.
The sound of this band is hard to pin down. They're sometimes compared to the Beach Boys, but I don't think that's apt. Brian Wilson always put his melodies front and center, because they had to be heard and loved from the speaker of a transistor radio. This is a headphone band. They remind me a little of the Pixies, both because of the teasing, bright lines the guitar plays and because they tend to hide amazing melodies under a murky, propulsive wash of sound. That's one of the reasons I keep returning to Real Estate's songs again and again; there's real beauty there, but it seduces you rather than throwing itself in your face. But unlike the aggressive Pixies, Real Estate conceals sweet surprises in their songs. There's often a gentle rocking feel to this music. If you're listening to it in the foreground, you'll hear wonderful songs. If you keep it in the background, it's lulling and uplifting. I find it's perfect music to play when I'm up against a harsh deadline at work. It relaxes me while it drives me on.
Sweetly melancholy but never sad, "Days" is a warm, fuzzy sweater comforting you against the impending chill of fall -- and reminding you that summer is always just around the corner.