In Mind, Real Estate’s fourth studio album, is the product of the band’s newest incarnation. After having split with founding guitarist, Matt Mondanile, the band has picked up Julian Lynch, an accomplished, productive musician in his own right, as their lead guitarist. Also new to the Real Estate lineup is the producer Cole M.G.N, who has worked previously on such projects as Dev Hyne’s Palo Alto OST, as well as Julia Holter’s prestigious 2015 release Have You in My Wilderness, both records diamond-bright with electronic flourish. Whether or not by Cole’s direction, Real Estate has made an interesting shift in their use of audial space, having in the past left conscious room in between their music. In Mind eschews emptiness for texture, every strata of the album filled with synth and sensation.
The album starts off especially strong, beginning with their lead single “Darling,” the most successful synthesis of their new styling. It begins with a sharp, cool synth introduction, giving way to Lynch’s guitar talent. Despite the modifications, Real Estate maintains their singular sound: clean, looping guitars, woven together, riding to lead singer Martin Courtney’s charming, pastoral lyricism. Good or not, In Mind begins with Real Estate’s best and most successful effort. That is not to say the rest of the album is disappointing, but rather, In Mind hits with its hardest earliest, the middle of the album occasionally slacking and dropping in its inspiration.
But it is a fine album with fine songs. The seven-minute movement “Two Arrows” begins as a drowsy march, moving deliberately but dreamily, its back-half fraying into a lush fuzz of synth squeals, reverb and resonance. It gathers sonic momentum and volume but cuts tightly and abruptly into silence, the structure of the song an apparent nod to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” off of Abbey Road. Following, “Holding Pattern” is the sleaziest, jammiest song on the album, affecting Steely Dan-style guitar patterns, heavy on the ride cymbal, rolling at a pace just a tad faster Real Estate’s languid style of play and performance.
Just as the album began with force, it ends so, with the five-minute, multi-movement “Saturday.” The song begins with a lovely, hesitant piano intro, careful but warm, uncharacteristic of Real Estate’s guitar heavy modus operandi. Soon enough, however, the band returns to its old tricks: dueling guitars file in, and then a rhythm, supplementing but not overpowering the piano. At two minutes, the song kicks into pace, regretfully dropping the piano, transforming into a surf rock song, strumming and chuffing.
If there is any sort of thematic presence to this record, it would be an awareness of space and surrounding, both in the music as well as the lyricism.
As mentioned before, this album does the most to create landscapes of sound, full and stereo, focusing on encapsulation. There is a clean richness to this album unheard in the Real Estate discography. In the record’s lyrics, Courtney focuses most intently on the natural space around him, making mentions of the birds (“black and yellow finches”), plants and weather (“six AM rain”) that make him feel most at ease. In context, this makes sense: Courtney has left New York City to raise a family upstate.
Perhaps this is Courtney rationalizing his change of scenery, coming to ease with domesticity. But despite settling down, there is no sense of defeatism or stagnation but, rather, expectancy for good to come.