Real Estate had a game-changing year in 2015. After the release of “Atlas” in 2014, the indie heroes decided to temporarily go their separate ways to work on their own projects. Lead vocalist and guitarist Martin Courtney released his solo soft-rock masterpiece “Many Moons,” former lead guitarist Matt Mondanile released “St. Catherine” with his band Ducktails and bassist Alex Bleeker came out with “Country Agenda” under his Deadhead band Alex Bleeker and the Freaks.
Somewhere along the way, Mondanile decided to leave Real Estate so he could focus on Ducktails. It was a no brainer to recruit fellow New Jerseyan Julian Lynch to replace Mondanile and his simplistic, yet perfect riffs. Lynch had played clarinet on “Atlas” and worked with Courtney on “Many Moons.” He also has four albums of his own under his belt that are as calming and laid back as any Real Estate album.
The result of the band’s short separation and return is “In Mind.” As a whole, it sounds like an extension of Courtney’s solo album “Many Moons” and that is totally fine. “In Mind” is filled with Courtney’s “Here Comes the Sun” style chord progressions. What is missing from this album is Mondanile’s contribution that is captured beautifully on “St. Catherine.” Combine “Many Moons” with the sound and style of “St. Catherine” and you would get what “In Mind” would have sounded like if Mondanile were still in the band.
The first track “Darling” is Real Estate’s way of saying, “Hey, I know we just had a drastic personnel change, but we are still the same Real Estate.” “Darling” is on par with previous singles like “Talking Backwards” and “Crime” as far as songs that can easily be stuck in your head for days, maybe even months!
Lynch is not properly introduced until the second song, “Serve the Song.” Within the first three seconds, Lynch comes in with whaling distortion that would catch any Real Estate fan off guard. The song ends with a chaotic guitar solo that goes well outside the boundaries of Mondanile’s comfort zone we have heard in his previous works. The somewhat bleak “Time” is saved in the last 45 seconds when Lynch interrupts Matt Kallman’s keyboard solo to add some charm to the slow track.
To make up for the absence of Mondanile, Kallman utilizes the keys on “In Mind” more than any previous Real Estate album. The keyboard could easily be overlooked on “Days” and “Atlas” if you are not listening closely, but on “In Mind” it cannot go unnoticed. “Saturday” starts with a day-dreamy piano intro that is far from anything Real Estate has ever done. After the rest of the band joins, they quickly snap out of the slow mellowness and come back to consciousness. The tempo speeds up and it starts to sound like a classic Real Estate tune.
Real Estate brings back the style of their debut album “Real Estate” on “Two Arrows.” The beginning can be compared to “Suburban Beverage,” with Courtney pleasantly strumming a similar chord progression and Bleeker playing a repetitive bass line that never manages to get on your nerves. Halfway through the song, it takes a significant turn and the pleasantness is gone. In its place is a haunting psychedelic jam session that could be a product of Bleeker’s time he spent touring with the Freaks.
Should you listen to it? Yes.
Like all Real Estate albums, “In Mind” succeeds in taking the listener to a different place. The phasers, reverb, tone, lyrics and melodies work together to dig into your brain and take you out of the moment to a simpler time, especially in one of the best tracks “Same Sun,” as Courtney exposes his own nostalgia. He sings: “When does one thing ever end and the next begin? Every day back then felt like a hyphen. I do not wish to retrace the steps I’ve taken.” He then makes a reference to the song “Green River” off their 2009 self-titled debut. “There will always be a trace of this place in me. Green River still runs under that same sun.” With this it is safe to say that Courtney has accepted Mondanile’s departure, and “In Mind” is proof that Real Estate is capable of moving on.
Collegian reporter Jonny Rhein can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jonnyrhein.