Entering the band’s second decade, Martin Courtney and company have seen it all. Their previous record In Mind was covered in a shadow overcasted by former founding member Matt Mondanile and the allegations that came with. Despite In Mind being one of my favorite records of 2017, the timing of everything seemed a bit rushed and out of place. The Main Thing proves that the group is more than resilient and their principle goal is growth.
Real Estate opens up their playbook of tones from the opening rush of sweeping synth in the track “Friday” that was rather reminiscent of something Kevin Parker would do in Tame Impala‘s Currents era. Followed by the piercing strings announcing the only single released prior, “Paper Cup” displays the band’s desire to step out of their comfort zone – showing growth early on. “Paper Cup” also features a rare collaboration with Sylvian Esso‘s Amelia Meath singing a very suiting and warm harmony.
Lyrically speaking, the track titled “You” hit me in a very personal way. Courtney tackles parenthood and some of the questions that come to a parent in the very early stages, touching on aspects that I catch myself pondering:
‘Just dream your time away
I see no better use for it
For soon, you’ll be awake
Then you’ll have to get used to it
‘I can’t imagine what will be
In your earliest memories’
The ever-growing sound extended itself to an ever-growing feeling throughout the duration of The Main Thing as the record became a statement of a more complete band sound – often drawing more of a jam band base similar to the likes of Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead. This is especially relative in the track “Also A But”. A trance-like groove driven by Alex Bleeker’s wonderfully steady bassline, a chorus completely covered by Matt Kallman’s catchy synth and the attention grabbing rolling tom work by Jackson Pollis, written by the bands newest member and lead guitarist Julian Lynch. Lynch explores the instability and uncertainty the world is facing, ‘I could easily imagine any manner of disaster / Couldn’t you?’
The rest of the record flows rather graciously with a couple standouts like the titular track “The Main Thing” – bringing the sound you have grown to crave from the vets. “Shallow Sun” starts with this captivating synth tone that continues overtop of the verse. The verse also contains a slide guitar part from Lynch that struck me and had me dying to listen to George Harrison’s sweet and gentle slide guitar. The track “Brother” brings you home with the subtle similarity to the band’s self-titled debut record that came out in 2009.
The Main Thing is a direct result of a new conscience and a new hope for the band. ‘We knew we’d been a band for ten years, and this is our fifth record, and it kind of felt almost like do or die,’ Courtney confessed in an interview with Uproxx.
Despite the band’s exploration in growth and sound, they did return to work with Kevin McMahon. McMahon served as the producer for the band’s most celebrated record, Days. The partnership shows to be a match made in heaven once again. The familiarity between the two parties definitely helped the band push to be more than its classic in-the-pocket style. ‘There was this thing Kevin kept saying – ‘Why are you doing that’ to whatever it was, whether it was a guitar part or lyric,’ said Courtney.
All in all, Real Estate‘s The Main Thing stands out as a new adventure guided into place by passion, love, and hope – without losing themselves along the way. Showcasing exceptional songwriting, soul-touching musicianship, and the beauty of reflection. I am a firm believer that we do not get many records like this one in particular very often. We need to appreciate The Main Thing as a modern piece of art that will be remembered for a very long time.