Summer No More
The blogosphere is obsessed with summer. From chillwave to twee to garage rock to, well, anything writ in major key, every second song to get parsed through the amorphous mass of online MP3 dispatchers seems to get described as a summer jam. A great summer song. An anthem for your summer.
Real Estate have been there. Since arising with their self-titled 2009 opus —whose opening two tracks were called "Beach Comber" and "Pool Swimmers," no less— the New Jersey outfit have found their music being synonymous, somehow, to so many, with summer. Largely, it's the guitars of songwriter Martin Courtney and guitarist Matt Mondanile, which roll out in golden patterns of such sparkly glory that describing sunlight flickering on water doesn't seem too romantic.
Whether it's a misperception of the masses or a sense of genuine rebellion by the band themselves, Days, the second Real Estate LP, dares to buck the seasonal stereotype (which Mondanile describes as "so annoying" and "really, really boring," P.S.). Say farewell to summer, kids, as this is an album autumnal; tumbling into an eternal musical fall, and feeling the melancholy mix of warmth, sadness, nostalgia, and acceptance that comes with the changing seasons.
The Beach's Sands Through the Hourglass
Here, Courtney's tender tunes touch on that feeling where summer is over and autumn is looming, and that turning over of the calender has a deep, human ache to it. When summer starts to slip away, it can bring out big feelings in people; largely because the sands of the hourglass are made manifest; the passing of these Days the passing of time itself.
It's not accidental, nor coincidental either. "Green Aisles" wants nothing more than to capture that time, and that feeling; Days' standout a melancholy meditation across that rolls out (in so many "aimless drives" and "wasted miles") five-minutes of autumnal jangle. "Under bright-lit skies/under thousands of maple leaves/standing side-by-side," Martin Courtney carols. "The houses were humming all through the night/the winter was coming, but that was alright."
The song is a paean to wasted nights and wasted hours, about traveling under street-lights and canopies of leaves, by bicycle, in cars, on foot. The lyrical motifs of traveling are perfectly pushed forward by the overlapping guitar licks, whose patterns carry their own sense of momentum, of movement.
That movement —both in the sense of motion, and in the sustained artistic motif— carries over to the rest of the LP. On "Younger than Yesterday," Courtney laments that there's "no more light green leaves" on the trees, a whole summer wasted in the attempt to "write one simple song" to capture the warmth and purity of bright sun-shining days.
Nostalgia is everywhere: "wonder years passed me by," Courtney sings, at one point; "We've got a memory," he smiles, at another. "Endless autumn/under pine trees," he remembers, mid-"Three Blocks," "and a springtime/spent by the sea." These are seasons as he's experiencing them, but as he's remembering them.
Here, the seasons are just the setting for memories, triggers to summon that happy/sad feeling of nostalgia. Although, even amidst all their pretty jangle, the second Real Estate record tilts more towards the sad. It doesn't safely transport listeners back to warm summer memories, but remind you you're inching forever forward towards death. The falling foliage of autumn and "decomposing leaves" underfoot in winter are, here, poignant symbols of man's mortality; these musical Days setting the plaintive passage of time to guitars of glorious chime.
Record Label: Domino
Release Date: October 18, 2011