In an effort to try and remove some of the pretense and claptrap that seems to come with record reviews circa this day and age, I’ve decided that I’d rather have an unfiltered conversation between two people than write about why or why not some album lives up to the hype, depends too much on distortion, etc.
I guess I should get it out of the way that Real Estate’s 2009 self-titled debut on Woodsist is one of my favorite albums of the last few years, and that I can see it aging like wine, and maturing into the label of “masterpiece” depending on how things go. Obviously with feelings like that, the chances of a sophomore slump by the band are not only heightened, but a bad second album could very well have some sort of impact on how I listen to the first one, henceforth. So I was a bit nervous going into this whole thing.
For my first listening to of Days, I invited James Yeh to sit down and drink beer as we both took in the sounds of the album, and discussed our first thoughts on one of the most highly anticipated records of 2011. If in case you aren’t familiar with Yeh’s work his fiction and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in NOON, McSweeney's, Vice, PEN America,Opium Magazine, and is one of the founding editors of Gigantic. Prior to our listening sesh, James stayed out all night helping Tao Lin master the art of DJing, and my cat fell in love with his trademark brown leather jacket. What follows is the conversation we had while listening to the record, and drinking several beers each.
Jason: We have seven hours to fill on this tape recorder if need be.
James: Let’s hope that’s not the case…
Jason: So I want to preface this by saying that this is one of the albums that I’ve anticipated the most this year. I thought their debut was pretty stunning.
James: Strong words.
Jason: Yeah. Coming into an album anticipating anything is something I don’t tend to do these days. Anyways, it’s autumn; this is a great autumn band.
James: Let’s keep thinking of that.
Jason: So I’m reading from their press release that Pitchfork declared their single “It’s Real” as “Best New Track.” Does that even mean anything anymore?
James: I don’t even understand that.
Jason: And the album is coming out on CD, vinyl, and cassette. All dead or dying formats.
James: I want it on midi-disc.
Jason: Or a gramophone. Anyways, let’s listen to this Real Estate album. We’re drinking some Oktoberfest beer, and we’re ready to go.
Track 1: “Easy”
Jason: Getting Indian summer-y feels? Do you think that makes a difference to other people? These guys make me feel nostalgic. Like smoking pot, then walking through the leaves while listening to good music on your CD Discman.
James: I wasn’t listening to good music when I was sixteen, but this still reminds me of being sixteen at the same time.
Jason: This first track has a Postcard Records feel to it. I’m feeling great about this so far. Speaking of feelings, it sounds sorta like The Feelies, which seems about right since they’re also from New Jersey.
[Both guys sit in silence for a moment, and enjoy the record. Two cats wander into the room.]
Track 2: “Green Aisles”
Jason: More 4AD territory.
James: They’re on Domino. That’s sorta the same thing.
Jason: I know this sounds corny, but I would like to put the first two Real Estate records on my iPod and just walk around New Jersey.
James: People assure me that there are a lot of nice gardens to walk around.
Jason: I always wondered if the Garden State thing was bullshit. I also don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but there’s a song called “Wonder Years” on here. That makes me feel pretty good.
James: Was that set in New Jersey?
Jason: I think it was.
Track 3: “It’s Real”
James: Alright, this is the song I’ve heard. [James starts tapping along to the beat.]
Jason: I think that’s the fastest drum beat I’ve ever heard from these guys, and there’s some New Jersey style Misfits “woah woah” chorus.
Track 4: “Kinder Blumen”
Jason: Kinder Blumen?
James: Child bloom? What’s that mean?
Jason: My German and Yiddish are rusty. I think child flowering? I think this is one of their vocal-less songs. And are those sleigh bells I hear?
Jason: Here’s a question, I have a hard time listening to songs that employ the use of sleigh bells in the warmer months. What about you?
James: What about Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”? I feel like you can listen to that anytime. I notice that the cats really seem to be enjoying the music. Is there any music they don’t like?
Jason: They hate Throbbing Gristle.
Track 5: “Out Of Tune”
James: This is sorta Steely Danish
Jason: Yeaaaah! Hopefully there’s some jazz flute.
James: I don’t know, I feel like that’s something that contemporary music won’t turn to, the jazz flute…
Jason: I don’t know. I don’t fear the jazz flute. Man, this song is like getting drunk and running through a cornfield.
James: I’ve never run through one.
Jason: It’s a pleasurable experience. This song is kinda Band of Horses-y…
James: Totally. My Morning Jacket with more emptiness… Also like Atlas Sound…
Jason: Urban Jim James.
Track 6: “Municipality”
Jason: I’m into this, but I really want to hear “Wonder Years” because of the name.
James: Kurt Vile’s influence is noticeable on this.
Jason: Yeah, people don’t talk enough abut the Vile influence on today’s music.
James: Also, this is maybe the most Yo La Tengo sounding song.
Jason: It’s hard for me to admit YLT into this, because every fall I listen to I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, so I feel like that would be thrown out of the influence judgment.
James: Inadmissible. That album’s so good.
Track 7: “Wonder Years”
James: It’s the one you’ve been waiting for…
Jason: Nice clean guitar. Okay, feeling Kevin McCallister, Winnie Cooper, and have a strong urge to say “Butthead!” Feels good.
James: The Feelies, Woods…
Jason: Total Woods feel. Staying true to their school.
Track 8: “Three Blocks”
Jason: This could replace that Smiths cover in the art museum scene of Ferris Bueller. I just got to say, I’m pretty happy with this album for a first listen.
Jason: I’m wondering when the whole washed out sounding vocals thing that’s big with all the Woodsist and Captured Tracks will phase itself out? I kinda hope it never does.
James: I think it’s more natural sounding.
Jason: Instead of trying to clean up some guy who can hardly sing. Or maybe trying to not pull a Malkmus where the guys voice breaks every time it tries to sing a different note. [Jason starts trying to imitate the Pavement song “Conduit For Sale!”. Cats run away.]
Track 9: “Younger Than Yesterday”
Jason: Sounds like alternative radio circa 1995.
James: There’s something this reminds me of…
Jason: I can’t place it. Dinosaur Jr.?
Jason: But it’s definitely the 90s. Did you hear the cover they did with Woods of Blind Melon?
James: No. The whole album, or just “No Rain?”
Jason: Just the one song.
James: I liked that song. I could have fallen asleep to it.
Track 10: “All The Same”
Jason: And here’s the closer. Early Foo Fighters, anyone?
James: Oh yeah. [Starts to sing a Foo Fighters song]
Jason: Nice way to wrap this thing up.
James: It makes me think of pleasantly floating away on a cloud.
James: Damn, I think I want to listen to that again…
Jason: Me too, but I was really hoping there would be a secret song. Remember when bands used to do that? Like Green Day…
James: [Begins singing secret track from Dookie, “All By Myself.”]
Jason: I’m pretty happy; this was a fantastic first listen. Definitely a great follow-up, and they've avoided the sophomore slump!