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“On the Phantom Brooding/Gratitude Continuum in Real Estate and its Historical Torque”

Jayson Greene’s review of Atlas, the new Real Estate album, transposes several traits onto the aural canvas that are not explicit. First, he ascribes Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney with a “cosmic gratitude,” this derived simply from the lines of “Had to Hear,” the album’s opener: “I don’t need the horizon / To tell me where the sky ends / It’s a subtle landscape / Where I come from.” Nowhere in these lines, though, is gratitude exuded. In fact, should gratitude yield happiness, and happiness precipitate a sense of humor, then you could say gratitude is explicitly lacking, because the song, lyrically, is markedly humorless, shamelessly self-indulging, transitioning seamlessly from abstract to pinpoint rumination and back, with nothing crowd-pleasing. So in framing this with the possible discourse of the importance of always wearing a smile and cracking a joke, the type of tactic which, it seems, almost exclusively comprises Kurt Cobain’s lyrics, the listener may draw no other conclusion that the younger generation hold themselves to a less stringent model of personality, and that gregariousness or levity that would be tabbed “witty” in the past is no longer, if it ever were, requisite in rock lyrics. Atlas is the first rock album strong enough to justify this lack of model for verbal personableness. In other words, I, a seasoned listener of rock music, to not MISS trivial “personality.”

The question remains, however, does CRITICISM still place importance on the embodiment of virtuous traits within lyrics? Such would be suggested by Greene of pitchfork’s insertion of “cosmic gratitude” in the situation while the song itself yields extremely scant, if any, sign of such a “gratitude.” At large, Courtney’s musings resemble those of someone who takes themselves extremely seriously, and who gives little credence to socially pleasing others, or exuding “gratitude” toward anything else — elderly, traditional.

The pitchfork review, in addition, makes a nice point that “Real Estate essentially has two lead vocalists–Courtney’s tenor on one hand, and Mondanile’s pearl guitar melodies on the other.” Only under such conditions of unprecedentedly lithe band interplay could this lyrical leap to unabashed self-centeredness have been sanctioned, but also welcomed as appropriate and, perhaps, irreplaceable.

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