EP review: Real Estate – ‘Half A Human’: capturing the hollowness of quarantine

THE ISOLATION of the pandemic has caused millions of people worldwide to realize how instrumental socialization and interaction has been in our lives.

Separated from this aspect of ourselves for over a year has left many of us feeling hollow and aware of the hole left in our lives. We have tried to stay connected electronically through the pandemic, but we still feel like shells of ourselves. Indie rock outfit Real Estate looked to encapsulate those feelings on their new EP, and their effort displays how technology can only meet our need for connection halfway.

The primary structure of most of the EP came from the groups work on their 2020 album, The Main Thing, but the tracks were fully adorned virtually throughout the pandemic. Between vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney, bassist/vocalist Alex Bleeker, keyboardist Matt Kallman and guitarist Julian Lynch, Half A Human serves as a relatable point of reflection about how far they have come and the uncertainty of their future. Real Estate’s sound has been largely defined by their interaction with live spaces, according to Lynch, and the upheaval of the past year has forced the band to experiment with new methods of collaboration.

Standing at the intersection of Beach House and Fleetwood Mac with the vocal mystique of Kevin Parker, the band displays a strong grasp on crafting pleasurable tunes. “In The Garden” highlights the strengths of the group’s writing, with a catchy vocal line and sticky, soft rock guitar licks. Across the EP, Bleeker gives fantastic performances on bass, weaving in and out of the layered textures built by the other players. The lyrical content of the album doesn’t try to contrive “what it all means,” in favor of focusing on the intimacy of small moments, blending their memories into a blur of nostalgia and bittersweetness. 

In structuring the original themes of the project, Half A Human centers around themes of isolation and alienation; although it was reflecting on life on the road, it packs additional raw emotional potency in the current moment. The band collaborated in a virtual manner for the EP, supporting the method further with The Quarantour, an upcoming AR concert experience. In exchanging ideas for the project, there are aspects of the production that highlight the hollowness of connection in the digital age. There are several moments on the EP where there’s an inconsistency in the mix, an interesting flair in the production is gone as soon as you hear it, or the track loses its momentum without the benefit of live coordination to revamp the performance, such as on the title track. Unfortunately, these unprecedented and unavoidable circumstances hamper the potential experience for the listener.

Half A Human serves as an important entry into Real Estate’s discography. Quarantine has caused all of us to lose vitality in our lives, and whether they intended to or not, Real Estate captures the hollowness we are all experiencing on Half A Human.

Real Estate’s Half A Human is out now digitally from Domino, with a limited 12″ following on May 7th; you can order that direct from the label, here.

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