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Boys of Summer

The alluring properties of Real Estate

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JERSEY SCORE  Real Estate's latest release probes deeper material.
  • JERSEY SCORE Real Estate's latest release probes deeper material.

Formed in suburban Ridgewood, N.J., Real Estate deliver shimmering summer jams on songs boasting increasingly contemplative themes. Their deceptively simple and subtle melodies hypnotize and transport audiences back to hazy memories of youth, though the band's latest album, Atlas, hints at a dawning realization that summers don't last forever.

This week, Real Estate comes to Sonoma County, performing on Saturday, Aug. 2, at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, in a special outdoor concert with support from S.F. indie band Sonny & the Sunsets and Brooklyn-based solo artist Kevin Morby.

The members of Real Estate were born and bred on country-club links and infused with small-town boredom, and their initial self-titled debut in 2008 coasted on those easy vibes. Frontman Martin Courtney, bassist Alex Bleeker and guitarist Matthew Mondanile all share songwriting credits (the band's lineup is rounded out with drummer Jackson Pollis and keyboardist Matt Kallman) and returned with their 2011 sophomore release, Days.

Days took steps toward sophistication and restraint. Open acoustic chords layered with swirling lead parts and stirring vocal melodies earned praise from critics and adoration from fans for their blend of Beach Boys–inspired harmonies and jangly R.E.M.-styled guitar hooks.

It would be three years before Real Estate released Atlas, and in that time the band clearly matured in both sound and feeling. Released in March, Atlas has earned even higher praise and a debut spot at number 34 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.

Atlas is an important work for the band, not only for its unshakable hooks and rhythms, but for its evolving depth. The album opens with the plaintive "Had to Hear" before diving into the nostalgic "Past Lives" and the album's first single, "Talking Backwards." The clean, delicate lead parts and upbeat vocals take on a dreamy Steely-Dan-meets-the-Shins sound. Yet the group keeps the pace light, and the music never drags.

"I'm just trying to make some sense of this before I lose another year," sings Courtney on standout song "The Bend," which, like "Horizon," tenderly explores the theme of the relentlessly approaching future. Throughout, the band's awareness of its place in time and their desire to navigate with a conscious pace makes Atlas their most musically cohesive and satisfying work yet.

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