Having just endured the worst (unless you’re a duck!) winter since time began – endless rain and punishing storms interspersed by spells of mild, dreary dampness – music has become the antidote. Xmas and beyond was salvaged by the bright iridescent hues of the eponymous John Wizards album which in turn passed on the musical baton in early February to what has become an almost obsessive re-appraisal of Real Estate’s second album, Days.
I find myself surprised and a little coy at the depth of my feelings for this record – a record by a band with a frankly awful name; a record which itself has a pretty uninspiring name; a record that sounds as out of touch with the zeitgeist as The Grateful Dead did in 1977; a record so polite and edgeless that if you took it home to meet your mother, she would be signing the adoption papers before the end of side one. Indeed, I almost didn’t buy it all, convinced as I was that the last thing I needed at the time was more jingly jangly indie pop fodder (I had already bought Real Estate’s first album which I found to be annoyingly inconsistent and ultimately somewhat underwhelming). However, a combination of a good showing in the 2011 end of year lists, a very effusive shop vendor and a paucity of other possibilities convinced me that Days was worth a chance.
So I bought it and liked it well enough from the get go. It has always been one of those albums that has been an easy choice. As soon as first track, the appropriately named Easy, hits its straps I know the next 40 minutes are going to be enjoyable, relaxing and comforting. And that’s just what the doctor has ordered of late.
I’m not quite sure what it is that Real Estate do so well which, perhaps, latter day Shins don’t, as the differences between the sounds of the two groups are not all that marked. But there is something there! On the face of it this is a very conventional and undemanding record – ten songs, five on each side, sprightly guitars, great playing, a singer with an unremarkable but pleasant enough voice, lyrics that just sort of float by. For the first year or two, it was the melodies that I was drawn to and they’re great, but that in itself is not enough to explain why Days is so revered. So for a (long) while I was very happy to spend time with the record without really ‘getting’ it.
However, as my attention towards the record deepened this Spring I began to appreciate aspects of Days that I had previously overlooked – particularly the atmospheres of the songs which are imbued with a melencholia that floats through the album with the lightest of touches. I now find it almost impossible to listen to Days and not create an image in my mind of the sun setting over a millpond sea at the end of a perfect day. And that’s a pretty good place to be taken to as the horizontal rain lashes against the windows and the fences in the back garden give up their fight against gravity as yet another Winter storm threatens to extinguish the smouldering embers of our last hopes and dreams.
Rob listened: Wow. I skim read Tom’s piece and thought he’d decided to review that Sunn O))) record again.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time with this record since it came out, most of it only half engaged, but it’s something I reach for time and time again. I couldn’t tell you whether there is hidden melancholy. Come to think of it, i’m not sure I could tell you a single lyric from the whole album, despite having played it dozens of times. But it’s extremely pleasant, both in and of itself and as an evocation of lots of the music I used to wallow in during the late eighties. It feels almost deliberately formulated never to change anyone’s life, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and who knows? Perhaps it’s sneaking up on me as I type.
Nick listened: Oh, jangle-pop. I think someone once told me that The Stone Roses’ first album was jangle-pop. It’s not, even if some bits of it bore some vague relation to jangle-pop. (And “Sally Cinnamon” was about 50% jangle-pop, way back when.) So I’ve always been disappointed by jangle-pop, because the bits of The Stone Roses that I liked were the bits they nicked off Simon & Garfunkel or funk or Led Zeppelin or The Clash, it seems. Anyway, this was nice enough, in a jangle-pop way. It reminded me a little bit of late-period Teenage Fanclub, when the Neil Young solos and post-grunge noise had given way to lovely harmonies as far as the eye could see, and they sounded like I image morphine feels when you’ve had a kidney removed.
Graham listened: Completely washed over me in the very nicest of ways. I would have to find the right time and place to properly savour that feeling again but Tom has promised to give me a glass of cold white wine on the beach soon, and we’ll dig our toes in the sand and watch the sun go down together.