Follow us:


A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

March 6, 2014 at 6:00 AM

It’s not hard to sell Real Estate | Concert preview

Real Estate

Real Estate, from Ridgewood, New Jersey, performs live at Neumos Thursday. Photo by Shawn Brackbill.

For many music fans, New Jersey is synonymous with larger-than-life rockstar personalities, from Jon Bon Jovi to The Misfits’ Glenn Danzig and, naturally, Bruce Springsteen.

Yet the Garden State has an equally storied history of understated, songwriting-forward guitar pop. Like its forebears The Feelies in the 1980s and Yo La Tengo later on, Real Estate’s easygoing, wide-eyed sound pays no mind to surrounding trends. “Atlas,” released this past Tuesday, is the third LP from the quintet, which plays Neumos Thursday.

Singer-guitarist Martin Courtney, guitarist Matt Mondanile and bassist Alex Bleeker grew up together in the north Jersey suburb of Ridgewood, but didn’t officially form Real Estate until their early 20s. (Keyboardist Matt Kallman and drummer Jackson Pollis round out the lineup.)

For Courtney, who attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, this week’s show is a homecoming of sorts. Explains Bleeker, “Martin wasn’t really a songwriter before he went out to the Northwest… but wrote his first real batch of songs at the end of his time there.”

That material can be heard on the group’s self-titled 2009 debut. Acclaimed 2011 follow-up “Days” wasn’t a huge departure from the first record, but encompassed a wider array of tones and textures.

Now comes “Atlas,” recorded at Wilco’s home studio in Chicago — an experience Bleeker says offered some perspective.

“I’m not the biggest Wilco fanboy in the world,” the bearded bass player laughs, “but I acquired a tremendous respect for the way they do things. They’re older dudes, they’re with families, they’ve got so many records, they’ve suffered a few storms… but they’re completely content as people, and as musicians. They’re as close as you can get to mainstream without compromising any of their principles at all.”

Ten leisurely-paced exercises in vivid lyricism and chiming twin guitars, “Atlas” is eminently catchy but never gratuitously so, its spot-on melodies and intricate arrangements sounding and feeling downright effortless.

Whether or not it’s the album that elevates Real Estate to stardom like 2001’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” did for Jeff Tweedy and company — and it’s possible — it paints a picture of a bright, even-keeled group stretching out and settling in for the long haul.

“We’ve never thought of music as work,” says Bleeker, “but we’ve become more comfortable with the idea of being a professional band. We used to get in more petty fights on the road… but the more we’ve grown up, toured with other bands and seen different dynamics, we’ve come to understand that this is the eternal brotherhood we’ve entered into.”

Real Estate, The Shilohs, Pill Wonder
8 p.m. Thursday at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $20 (206-709-9467 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Neumos, New Jersey, Olympia


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►