Album Review: Real Estate – Real Estate

[Woodsist; 2009]

Hot on the heels of several releases under his Ducktails nom-de-plume, Matthew Mondanile and his New Jersey Shore bandmates bassist Alex Bleeker, singer/guitarist Martin Courtney and drummer Etienne Pierre Duguay seem to have come out of nowhere with their full-band project Real Estate. To accuse them, though, of cashing in on the current trends of lo-fi groups that all have their own quirky style of pop would be a huge misnomer. The four have been playing together since high school, and the songs on their self-titled album have been slowly brewing and put out in various forms for more than a year. Luckily for us who can’t keep up with 7″ releases and multiple mp3s, it’s all collected here in a fantastic full-length release.

Those afraid of this being just another take on Ducktails material need not worry; while “Let’s Rock The Beach” (an older Ducktails piece) does make an appearance, the music here is not the wow-and-flutter cassette ambience of Mondanile’s solo ventures. From the get-go with the opener “Beach Comber,” the listener knows that this is honest-to-goodness pop music, and with fidelity to boot. Courtney’s vocals, though sometimes a little lost in the more tropical-style numbers like “Pool Swimmers” and “Black Lake,” are actually audible. Duguay’s drums are given enough space to evoke an actual presence, and Bleeker’s basslines are nice and fat. The dual guitars compliment each other wonderfully as well, and don’t fight for dominance with the upfront singing.

While this all points to Real Estate being pop, the band’s music does share two qualities with Mondanile’s Ducktails. It has the wonderful feel of real people enjoying the music they are creating, without pressure to deliver “the goods” or fear of being put in a constricting box. It also has that feel of nostalgia for something one has to let go in the coming years of adulthood: getting out of school for the summer, meeting up in a friend’s garage to jam out and make musical nods to one’s heroes (oldies radio and Weezer in their case), and letting things drag out with no sense of hurry or worry. Indeed, this is a soundtrack of good times once had by all.

There is more here than meets the eye with this band, though. Much like how Mondanile has been pushing his Ducktails sound out of nostalgia and into a realm of ambient otherness, it’s clear that this band can be capable of pulling a similar move. With them saying goodbye to these memories and now taking on more adult roles (half the band has moved out into the cities of Brooklyn and Jersey City from the NJ suburbs), perhaps they will be embracing something slightly more real and tangible. Their talents and chemistry certainly suggest they are capable of doing so. But just because they’re older now doesn’t mean that they can’t go out and have fun. Whatever they choose to do next, it will be warmly welcomed into the home, just like a recent college graduate.