Posts Tagged ‘Martin Courtney’

To some, Real Estate’s jangly, easy going sound is anachronistic in the current tightly wound world of popular music. To others though, their brand of indie-influenced surf rock is the perfect solution to the stress of everyday life. Their latest EP—the jammy and perpetually entertaining “Half a Human” distills their essence in an approachable bite-sized package. Quite simply, it’s fun, profound, and undoubtedly delightful.

Though it begins with the rather abstract and twinkly “Desire Path,” Half a Human quickly finds its feet, jumping headfirst into the title track, which is a well-paced journey filled to the brim with dreamy melodies and cascading patterns.

Whether it be the slippy, ride-driven verses of “Soon” or the beachy waves of “In the Garden,” the arrangements are all perfectly constructed and exceptionally atmospheric. “Ribbon,” the concluding act, is equally calm and controlled with simplistic yet catchy lyrics to boot (“This vessel sustains me/But it cannot contain me”). In particular, Julian Lynch’s dextrous lead lines soar alongside the band’s steady rhythm section, with Martin Courtney’s vocals slotting in excellently atop the finely layered mix. In an incredibly satisfying manner, nothing is more complex than it needs to be.

Some of the tracks may get a tad repetitive, but they are established solidly enough that it does not seem tedious or boring. Instead, the 24 minutes one spends listening to “Half a Human’s” six tracksjust fly by.

Once again, the lads from Ridgewood, New Jersey have nailed it, creating a concise, dreamy effort that beautifully captures the feeling of transitioning from winter to spring. Half a Human isn’t just well put together, it’s downright dazzling. (

Real Estate – “Half a Human” from ‘Half a Human EP,’ out now on Domino Record Co.

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Real Estate are back with news of their upcoming EP “Half a Human”, and have released the title-track as the first taster. “Half a Human” marks the band’s first single of 2021, following last year’s The Main Thing album and their cover of Galaxie 500’s “Plastic Bird” that dropped in August 2020. Real Estate‘s “Half a Human” EP consists of six songs that were first conceived during The Main Thing album sessions, and finished remotely by the band during the pandemic.

Vocalist and guitarist Martin Courtney says, “Life keeps changing and additional responsibilities and stresses keep being added, but this band is still here. When I was writing a lot of these songs, I was feeling a little weird about being in a band. Like, ‘how is this still a thing?’ I was feeling silly about it and then coming around to it at the same time. This is what we’re good at and it’s what we love to do and want to keep doing. I don’t want to do anything else.”

“Half a Human” marks the band’s first single of 2021, following last year’s The Main Thing album, 

Real Estate – “Half a Human” from ‘Half a Human EP,’ out 26th March on Domino Record Co.

As part of their recent augmented reality Quarantour, Real Estate brought their brand of indie rock to everyone’s favourite kitchen appliance.

“We’ve always wanted to play inside of your refrigerator,” the band said of the “Gone” performance via press release. “We unearthed this live in-studio performance of ‘Gone’ from way back in December, and our friends Callen were kind enough to make our dreams come true. We hope you enjoy this new video as much as we do!”

Real Estate – “Gone (Live Refrigerator Version)” from ‘The Main Thing,’ out now on Domino Recordings.

Over the last decade, Real Estate have crafted warm yet meticulous pop-minded music, specialising in soaring melodies that are sentimentally evocative and unmistakably their own. The Main Thing dives even further into the musical dichotomies they’re known for—lilting, bright guitar lines set against emotionally nuanced lyrics, complex arrangements conveyed breezily— and what emerges is a superlative collection of interrogative songs as full of depth, strangeness and contradictions as they are lifting hooks.
Released February 28th, 2020

Real Estate

Real Estate were breezy right from the start but have mellowed further with every record. The Main Thing, is the band’s fifth album, is their most settled yet. Also one of their most enjoyable. This is Real Estate’s second album with Julian Lynch as the group’s other guitarist, alongside frontman Martin Courtney, and everything feels comfortable if thankfully not quite predictable. Keyboardist Matthew Kallman’s presence is increased, with swirling synthesizers intertwining with the rippling guitar leads, and Jackson Pollis is credited not just with drums but drum programming. In that way, there’s an added emphasis on rhythm and groove, with Alex Bleeker’s basslines more fluid than they’ve ever been before. The album opens with “Friday,” a song whose oceanic synths and rolling basslines are closer to Air or Zero 7 than The Grateful Dead or The Feelies, and it’s not the only soft rock touch here. That leads directly into “Paper Cup” which, with sweeping strings, bongos and a fat keyboard lead dueling with the guitars, is just a Michael McDonald backup vocal away from being full-on yacht rock. No Doobie Brothers in earshot, but Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath does provide lovely background vocals.


The rest of The Main Thing is in more familiar Real Estate territory, and quality remains high. “You” is an instant classic, and the title track is nearly as appealing with a soaring, compact guitar solo that actually leaves you wanting more. Courtney and Lynch stretch out and peel off some jammier leads on “Also A But” and a few other tracks, but for the most part keep things, tight, bright and just a little wistful. As for the album’s title, it was partially inspired by Roxy Music’s song of the same name and more specifically about how doing the thing you love is your true path. Which, in the case of this band, is writing super catchy guitar pop. To that end Real Estate are wildly succeeding.

Released February 28th, 2020

2020, Domino Recording Co Ltd

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Real Estate named their fifth LP after a Roxy Music song from 1982—a dark, seductive groove that defines the band’s mastery of hi-fi mood. It’s an odd reference on paper; after all, it’s not like frontman/chief songwriter Martin Courtney has started channeling the glammy art-rock stylings of Bryan Ferry. But the inspiration holds up in a roundabout way: After years of defining “dreamy guitar rock” for the modern indie era, the band was eager to experiment with a more expansive sound.

“With this record, we were looking to not repeat ourselves— that was kind of the main thesis,” says bassist and cofounder Alex Bleeker. “We were at this place of, ‘What is the point of making a fifth Real Estate album in 2020 when it feels like our lives have changed; the musical climate has changed; the cultural climate has changed?’ [2017’s] In Mind was critically well received as ‘good ol’ Real Estate,’ and we were like, ‘We just don’t feel like there’s a point to doing that again. So how do we make sure we don’t do the same thing?’”

They found the answer at Marcata, a massive barn-cum-studio outside New Paltz, N.Y., where they hunkered down with engineer Kevin McMahon. A longtime friend and mentor who co-produced their 2011 album, Days, McMahon helped the band whittle away at their massive pile of songs for more than a year, urging them to question their entire creative ethos along the way. As Courtney would ponder throughout the finished LP, he and his bandmates had started to question the driving force behind this “main thing,” this music career to which they’d devoted their lives.

“It’s funny that we went back to someone we worked with before in order to achieve that,” notes Bleeker. “I kept making the joke that it was like Rocky going back to Mickey’s gym. We needed to get back to the emotional center of the band—we needed to remember who we were before we were on Domino and had much of an audience. We needed to get back to the musical heart of things.”

The process began as it always does, with Courtney building up a stack of rough drafts at the band’s gear hub/demo space. Ironically, given the album’s lengthy gestation period, he started quickly—around six months after the release of In Mind, with the aim of breaking their streak of three-year gaps between records. Even more ironically, he spent less time than usual labouring over the minutiae of the arrangements: With three young children at home, including one in kindergarten and another in preschool, Courtney opted for a series of more structured writing sessions this time—an efficient process that churned out a number of tracks in bare-bones, guitar-and-vocals form. But that shift brought its own unique challenge, too: letting go.

“I left some of these songs a little more open for the rest of the band to interpret,” he says. “I wanted to keep writing and didn’t want to linger too long. I almost want to say it’s harder to get excited when a song feels half-done. A lot of times, I record the drums, bass, lead guitar and keyboards parts when I’m writing. And it’s a lot more exciting to listen to those demos because they’re fully finished songs. Sometimes, I can’t stop listening to them. With these demos, it was like, ‘OK, this is promising. This is a good seed of a song, and I’m psyched about this vocal melody. I’m gonna leave it at this and move on to the next one.’”

Since the band’s formation in 2008, the other members of Real Estate have always helped shape their own parts. But Courtney completely relinquished the reins for The Main Thing, opening up his songs to new grooves, arrangements, even instrumentation. That sense of freedom became a throughline for the entire process, allowing Bleeker, drummer Jackson Pollis, keyboardist Matt Kallman and guitarist Julian Lynch to help bring Real Estate into an entirely new era.

“It can be frustrating, going through the process of fleshing out a song with the band,” he says. “Even if I haven’t finished the demo, I sometimes have an idea of how the song should sound, and if it starts going in another direction, sometimes I get really frustrated. But the process of making this record was me trying to let go of that feeling and just let it be more of a collaboration. This band has been together for a long time, and that’s where I was: Just allow these songs to evolve. I can always go back and make a solo record, and do everything myself and scratch that itch. Sometimes it’s exciting to see the songs go in a different direction and take on a different life than what you expected them to.”

For Bleeker, that process was liberating—an excuse to incorporate influences that may have previously been deemed incompatible with the Real Estate brand. “Certain songs that Martin wrote, like ‘Friday’ or ‘Paper Cup,’ didn’t really have [our usual] rhythmic groove underneath them in the demos,” he says. “That came with other people putting their spin on them: Jackson playing a soul beat, me playing a funky bassline and Martin having the grace to be like, ‘OK, let’s try that. That’s not the song that was in my head but, you’re right—maybe we should push it into some new territory.’ It can be difficult. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve found ourselves in this position where, in places that we thought we’d have more stability, we’ve actually realized there’s no shortcut. You almost have to work twice as hard because you’ve already invented this one sound and—in order to expand on it successfully or change in a way that’s not disingenuous—you’ve got to put in at least twice as much work.”

However, The Main Thing isn’t a major departure from the band’s sweet spot: The hazy electric jangle of “Friday” and “November” could slot in seamlessly on their previous albums, from their partly home-recorded debut, 2009’s Real Estate, to the polished In Mind. But it’s their most confident tweak to their signature sound: Early single “Paper Cup” finds Courtney singing over a vintage soul wash outfitted with strings, auxiliary percussion (courtesy of The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick and Brazilian Girls’ Aaron Johnston), buzzing synthesizers and the call-and-response vocal of Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath; and the ambient interlude “Sting” layers reverb-heavy piano over a pitter-patter beat; the gently cascading “Also a But,” Lynch’s first composition for the group, veers more into full-fledged psychedelia.

Lynch’s fingerprints are all over the album, including the liquid-y guitar solo on “Also a But” and a particularly glorious melodic part on “You,” a song Courtney wrote for his then-unborn child. The guitarist—who grew up with Courtney and Bleeker and officially joined Real Estate in 2016 after the well-publicized exit of cofounder Matt Mondanile—became fully ingrained in the group’s creative process on The Main Thing.

“With In Mind, I’d just joined the band and there was some degree of hesitance on my part. I didn’t want people to think: ‘Who is this stupid guy who’s in the band now? Why’s he playing guitar in my favourite band and not me?’ There was some suspicion toward me initially, and I didn’t want to be blamed for some new element introduced—some guitar sound that wasn’t characteristic of the band. I didn’t want people to say, ‘This guy just ruined my favourite band.’ So I didn’t take too many chances on In Mind, but my guitar approach was much more deliberate on this album. I had more time to think out my solos. I was in an environment I felt really comfortable with.”

That environment, friendly yet philosophical, was fostered by McMahon, who has known many of the members of Real Estate since their teenage years. But McMahon was still an unlikely choice for a band hesitant to repeat themselves. Their record label, for one, was afraid everyone would be too comfortable. But the opposite happened. When Courtney reconnected with McMahon to record some songs for a friend’s movie, he realized they’d both wound up in a headspace of creative self-doubt—leading to lengthy conversations about career goals and their place in an erratic industry. It was the perfect time to reconvene with Real Estate—the familiarity of working with an old friend, away from the stress and clinical atmosphere of a top-dollar studio, gave them the confidence to branch out of their comfort zone.

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“One thing I remember him doing is asking us why we were doing things,” says Bleeker. “Not in a negative way but just like, ‘Why are you playing the bass like that?’ He was like, ‘If you have an answer for me, that is satisfactory. I’m not making a judgment call on whether that’s good or bad.’ I realize now that five albums deep, you tend to be like, ‘This is what we do.’”

“Obviously our lineup has changed a few times, but we became a 10-year-old band two years ago, and this is our fifth record, so we don’t want to start going through the motions,” adds Courtney. “The idea was to question every decision we were making as we were doing it, which was also something really encouraged by Kevin. The record was as important to him as it was to us, and he was really invested in it both in terms of his career and since we are friends. It’s been a collaboration with every producer we’ve worked with, but this was deeper in some way.”

McMahon was crucial in urging the band to embrace their new sounds and sound-makers—one of many factors that led to the album’s long arc.

“We made a conscious decision to work with outside musicians for the first time,” Courtney says. “That was something Kevin encouraged us to do—maybe to make it feel fresh. In the past, we’ve been really [hesitant] to do that. I’ve always looked at this band as four or five people and whoever we’re working with as a producer at any given point, and that’s it. Whatever sounds were on the record were made by us, and I’ve become very protective of that. I was [scared of what would happen] if someone else came in and we didn’t like it. You don’t trust anyone to tamper with your sound. But I’m really glad we did. We were pushing ourselves to try new things, trying to be more thoughtful about the parts we’re playing.”

“We got to some places that were uncomfortable and scary,” adds Bleeker. “Julian’s song is one of my favorites and a standout because it’s by a songwriter who’s never written for Real Estate before and has a different sensibility. I remember being psyched on the song when we were recording it, but I also thought, ‘How are our fans gonna take this? It doesn’t sound like Real Estate.’ You have these weird little neuroses that build up and you have to push through.”

The sessions were revelatory. They recorded enough material for a double album, though they decided to table some of the recordings—including the recent, jam-heavy live favourite “Half a Human,” which they hope to revisit down the line. (“I’m the resident jamband lover of the band,” Bleeker says, breaking down the track.) Despite the productivity, the length of their process eventually started to wear on Courtney, as deadline after deadline slipped between their fingers.

“I did get frustrated a few times because I wanted it to be done,” he says. “I kept setting these arbitrary [timelines] for myself, ‘We’ll get this record done by June and get it out by October.’ Then, when we realized that wasn’t going to happen, we said, ‘We’ll get it done by October and get it out early next year.’ But, these deadlines meant nothing. Maybe I was just excited to have the record come out. Then it was like, ‘This record has to be done within the calendar year of 2018.’ And then, January comes around and we’re still recording strings and stuff. I kept having to be told to just relax. Alex and Kevin kept being like, ‘Why do you need to have this record done? Really ask yourself that question—there’s no reason to have this record come out at any given point.’

“Making a record becomes stressful because the band is pretty off the radar,” he adds. “We were touring a little bit, but we didn’t have anything new coming out, so people stopped talking about us. You feel like, every day that goes by, fewer people are going to care when the record actually does come out. I’ve felt that way with every record after our first one, and I’ve always been surprised that [fans] end up caring, no matter how long it takes.”

More crucially, Real Estate still care about Real Estate. Recording The Main Thing reinforced their reasons for making music in the first place.

“[That’s] part of the reason we ended up working so hard and for so long,” Courtney says. “It felt a little more important this time around. We really felt like it was a milestone record for us. If we’re gonna do it, we should try to make it the best thing we’ve ever made.”

Real Estate – from ‘The Main Thing’, out now on Domino Record Co.

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October 18th 2011, New Jersey’s Real Estate released “Days”, their second album and first for Domino. A coming of age moment for childhood friends Martin Courtney (Guitar and Vocals), Matt Mondanile (Guitar) and Alex Bleeker (Bass), “Days” was recorded over the course of five patient months in a remote New Paltz, NY barn-cum-studio with the help of Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen).

A gorgeous suite of guitar-pop songs, Days is a testament to the fact that the sonic formula Real Estate developed and shared with their debut album (Real Estate, Woodsist 2009) heralded the arrival of a new, genuine and enduring group of voices in American independent music. Days sees the band tighten and refine their brand of timeless, melodic and genuine music- consolidating the breezy sketches of their earlier work into considered, graceful pop songs.

The songs are built around deceptively simple, cyclical riffs; caressed and performed with a rhythm and restraint that is atypical for a band Real Estate’s age. The instruments swim together, anchored down by Bleeker’s firm Lesh-esque bass, ebbing and flowing, occasionally enriched with flourishes of country piano, soft synths and slide guitar. Several songs, like the album’s rousing first single “It’s Real” were written by Courtney in the way he wrote some of his first songs  more


Originally released October 17th, 2011

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Real Estate return with ‘The Main Thing’ on Domino Recording Company.
Indie exclusive edition with limited deluxe tip on gatefold sleeve. Frontman Martin Courtney says the track is “an inspiration In a press release, Real Estate’s Martin Courtney explained:

“The Main Thing” is my attempt at writing an inspirational anthem for anyone who’s ever been in an existential crisis… specifically, me.

I was asking myself a lot of uncomfortable questions throughout the process of making this album. Wondering if being an artist is irresponsible or selfish, particularly with the world in the state that it’s in, particularly as a parent of young kids. This was the last song I wrote for this album, and I think it kind of distills where I found myself at the end of what turned out to be a long and extremely rewarding process: psyched on the power of music, for real!

The lyrics in this song are sort of tongue in cheek, but the sentiment is very real. Basically… when life gets tough, when the stresses start piling up, when you start second guessing every decision you’ve made, what do you do? You double down on the thing that makes you happy, the thing that feeds your soul.

At Long Last ! We can finally share our new single “Paper Cup” with you. It’s the second song on our new album, ‘The Main Thing’ which comes out on February 28th, The Main Thing is Real Estate’s follow-up to 2017’s In Mind. The band heads out on tour in support of The Main Thing in April.

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Real Estate have announced the release of new album In Mind coming out on the 17th of March via Domino. The news has been accompanied by the release of the new single and video ‘Darling’ which sees the band demonstrating their limited equestrianism skills and new line up including new guitarist Julian Lynch.

After a solo release from Martin Courtney and the departure of Matthew Mondanile, New Jersey indie rock treasures Real Estate have pulled together their fourth full-length, their first in 3 years.  Known for their sunny indie pop style, Real Estate make technical musicianship look easy.  From hazy 70s AM radio harmonies to jangly Byrds-era guitar tones, 2017 will see 11 new songs from the fellas,

The release with be the band’s first since the departure of Matt Mondanile last year to focus on his band Ducktails and Martin Courtney’s 2015 solo album Many Moons. The band have recently finished a short US tour but are expected to release new dates in support of the new album.

“Darling” from Real Estate’s album, In Mind, out March 17, 2017 on Domino Records.

Watch the new video for ‘Darling’ below:

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Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney‘s debut solo album, Many Moons, came out at the end of October and if you haven’t heard first single “Northern Highway” yet, you can stream it below. It is probably the most Real Estate-eque song on the album, which leans a little more soft rock, with warm strings and keyboards giving things a different, if still pastoral, feel. (The fluid basslines add to the ’70s vibe as well.).

Martin has just announced his first solo show which will happen at new Brooklyn venue National Sawdust on November 20th.


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