There are many phases and milestones in life that cause individuals to both reflect and be anxious about what the future holds. For vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney of indie-rock band Real Estate, this phase is the anticipation of the birth of his first child. Throughout Real Estate’s third studio album Atlas, you get a feel for some of the issues Courtney is going through in this anticipation. For as uncertain as the future is, the album has a strong sense of cohesiveness with lyrics of deep reflection contrasted with guitarist Matt Mondanile’s beautiful yet simple guitar patterns.
The album wastes no time grabbing the listener’s attention with opener “Had to Hear”. Not only does the track provide brilliant instrumentals from Mondanile, but the lyrics sung by Courtney complement the song’s feel very well. When Courtney sings the line “I don’t need the horizon to tell me where the sky ends/ it’s a subtle landscape where I come from,” it’s evident that a lot of thought was put into the track.
“And the only thing that really matters/ is the one thing I can’t seem to do” is what Courtney sings at the end of the chorus on “Talking Backwards”. Continuing on the theme of dealing with changes and issues, he tackles the frustration of a relationship stalemate. This song resonates well with any individual who’s experienced this, and is among one of the strongest on the album.
Courtney places a heavy emphasis on the feeling of not having control in the track “The Bend” with the lyrics “’Cause it’s so hard to feel/ they control you/ like I’m behind the wheel/ but it won’t steer.” His vocal style fits perfectly with the style of this track, producing a deep sound of reflection and making this one of the strongest songs on Atlas as well.
Real Estate adds more cohesiveness to the album with the penultimate track, “Horizon”. Reiterating the idea of horizons and an overall sense of placement also felt on “Had to Hear”, Courtney sings the lines “just over the horizon/ that’s where I’ll always think you’ll be/ it’s always so surprising/ to find you right there next to me” in the opening. This song also conveys a heavy message of human relations, giving the album a larger foundation of creative ground to stand on.
Atlas is a prime example of a man trying to make sense of the changing world around him, and the anxieties that grow from a future uncertain. This much can be felt from Courtney’s lyrics “I’m just trying to make sense of this/ before I lose another year” in “The Bend”. There’s a very mature feel to the album, which is fitting for the struggles of getting older. Though Real Estate strayed away from the path of nostalgia felt on their previous albums, their focus on the present and future uncertainty resonates well with anyone who’s gone through anxiety about what the future holds.