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Daniel – Real Estate

Recommended Tracks: "Somebody New," "Haunted World," "Water Underground"
RiYL: Coconut Records, Foxygen, Modest Mouse

In this reviewer’s humble opinion, Real Estate hit the ball out of the park with their 6th studio album, Daniel—released on February 23rd of this year. The New Jersey-based band, composed of leader singer and guitarist Martin Courtney, guitarist Matthew Mondanile, bassist Alex Bleeker, and drummer Etienne Duguay, self-describes their music as “a warm, hazy style of indie rock.” Daniel is no exception to this rule.

Engaging in lyrical dissonance, with tracks that are lyrically heavy but instrumental that reads as upbeat and happy, Real Estate’s Daniel seems to describe a chronology of events that present change and the unknown as both a daunting and freeing experience. A motif of light and sun appears in “Haunted World,” “Flowers,” “Interior,” “Freeze Brain,” “Airdrop,” “Market Street,” and “You Are Here.” In each song, this motif seems to reference either the singer’s ability—or lack thereof—to see their life clearly, feel connected to their environment, and/or see the bright side of things. There are also frequent references to often-aimless “walking,” as well as “change.” These repeated references seem to link the tracks together, making Daniel emerge as a recollection of a failed relationship and the singer’s subsequent feelings of grief.

With lyrics that are often vague, and without direct address from Real Estate, one can never be so sure of Daniel’s exact intent, but I am choosing to participate in the death of the author—or the divorce of intention from a piece of art after it is released—in favor of my own interpretation. If Real Estate is doing what I think they are doing with these songs, Daniel is a near masterpiece of an album. Either way, the album is enjoyable simply by the merit of its captivating instrumental and catchy hooks—which Real Estate has mastered the art of.

If you have ever dealt with feelings of heartbreak, disillusionment, or a lack of motivation, you will likely find a track on Daniel that speaks to you. The album’s standout tracks—in my opinion—are “Somebody New,” “Haunted World,” “Water Underground,” and “You Are Here.”

“Somebody New” is a great opening track for the album. In the song, Martin Courtney very eloquently describes an experience of grappling with change and—possibly—experiencing depression as a result. Through lyrics laced with validation and care, Courtney seems to speak both to himself and to the listener. “Somebody New” exemplifies the beauty of Real Estate. The band seems to have mastered the ability to recognize and destigmatize difficult feelings, which aids the often dream-like and comforting quality of their music.

The second track on the album, “Haunted World,”—with its jaunty beat and existentialist lyrics—is a song made for a late-night drive with the windows down. It—like many of Real Estate’s other songs—reflects the sound of time in which the band was established: 2008. If you have any affection for Coconut Records, early Panic! At The Disco, Foxygen, or Modest Mouse, you would likely enjoy this song and this album.

“Water Underground” is similarly catchy. With the line, “Water underground, won’t you cool me down? Wash over me,” the band adds yet another catchy hook to the books. This song, too, grapples with feelings of disillusionment and the need for avenues of hope.

“You Are Here” is a great track to round out the album. It perfectly encapsulates the themes of Daniel’s earlier songs. Serving almost as a pressure release, “You Are Here” answers the questions of the earlier tracks. Courtney seemingly draws on the Law of Polarity—or similar beliefs—which state that there are two “poles” to every situation—light and dark, good and bad, love and grief, etc. Through the poles of “darkness” and “light,” “fire” and “rust,” Courtney acknowledges his grief, his love, and their inevitable coexistence. Essentially, “You Are Here” says, ‘You are here, but you will not always be here. There is invariably another side to these things.’

If it is not already obvious, I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel, as I often do with Real Estate’s music. I do, however, still have some critiques of the album. Real Estate’s marriage to their musical M.O. has some of the tracks—especially at the midpoint of the album—sounding a little too sonically similar. This makes the middle of the album sound like an undifferentiated glob—an enjoyable glob, but a glob nonetheless. With its commitment to a certain sound and a certain theme, Daniel unquestionably cements itself as a Real Estate album. Real Estate has a signature sound, and they are unashamed of sticking to it! Admittedly, my position as an established fan of Real Estate’s sound does lead me to enjoy even the most similar sounding of songs and could potentially create some bias in my review. The only way to truly know if you, too, would be a fan, is to give Daniel a listen.

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