Wednesday, November 2, 2011
review- real estate at lincoln hall 10.31.11
I have a tremendous amount of difficulty understanding what exactly it is about Real Estate that makes me love them so much. When I think about their music I feel like it's conceptually very thin and rehashed, but when I throw either of their magnificent records on the turntable it always sounds unlike anything I've ever heard. It all seems obvious enough and yet no one has even come close to making the type of music that they make. I recently read a review of 'Days' comparing it to 'Oh, Inverted World' by the Shins and it occurred to me that that might be apt, but then the more I think about it the less true it seems. They couldn't possibly come off as any more unassuming than they do. Their sound is instantly identifiable, but conceptually seems so analogous and yet no two songs sound alike apart from a predilection for phaser and light delay. On record the songs seem so placid and laid back, which one would think would make for a dull and joyless live show. What I found while watching their excellent headlining set at Lincoln Hall was an incredibly impassioned, fun and driving set of songs. One of my favourite moments of the night was when the band launched into the gorgeous wistfulness of 'Green Aisles' after a stretch of five covers (more on that later) and feeling a rush of joy rise in everyone in the crowd. Such moments are increasingly rare.
The first time I heard Real Estate was when they opened for Woods last year at Lincoln Hall just before the release of the 'Reality' EP. I was stuck in the front of the bar in a booth with my wife and two friends and I remember being able to hear them playing in the next room very clearly. The entire time I alternated between thinking, 'Eh, this isn't that good' and 'This is fucking beautiful. I want to get my ass out of this booth and into that room to listen to this properly.' I didn't get ahold of the first self-titled record until the beginning of this summer, despite having heard a co-worker play it at work constantly over the last year or so, the rave reviews and the aforementioned enjoyment of their live set opening for Woods. I bought my ticket for this current Lincoln Hall show on a lark not even aware that they had a new record coming out. I was initially going to wait until the night of the show to buy 'Days' but after watching their Insound Session videos the suspense was unbearable and I found myself dropping by Reckless Records on the way home from work the day it was released specifically to buy it. 'Days' is currently in heavy rotation- it's the perfect foil to their self-titled record- somewhat more polished, staying true to their aesthetic yet effortlessly plunging into new, exciting territory. It's a very tight little record and, indeed, seems the perfect winter foil to the summery feeling of the self-titled record.
The band took to the stage dressed in fairly subtle costumes (mostly just funny hats). They opened with a few from the first record, played the bright first track off of 'Days' and then launched into a five-song cover set in honor of halloween- a very inspired and obviously fairly spontaneous stunt that I feel like they pulled off. It's something that a curmudgeon like me should loathe, but I found very unexpected and enjoyable. They played a Clean song, 'Coffee and TV' by Blur and 'Holiday' by Weezer, for example. After the covers set they removed their hats and started a beautiful, solid stretch of songs from 'Days' starting with 'Green Aisles' (which is probably my favourite song on the record). The setlist built upon itself keeping the energy and the vibe going. Not many bands can start a song like 'Suburban Dogs' and you can feel a lift in the crowds' collective spirits, but that's what happened when the drummer started the stark beat. It sounded absolutely breathtaking and perfect. They closed with the closing track off of 'Days' and they even came out for an encore. Try as I might to describe how they managed to play such laid-back sounding songs with so much energy and drive I can't even begin to start. All I know is that the 'downer indie' label that was lazily cast onto the band in their Time Out Chicago listing for this show proved to be the biggest crock I've ever heard. My one complaint- they didn't play 'Out of Tune.'