Music fans have a problem with consistency. As listeners, we tend to demand innovation from artists, or at least a feeling of freshness. Yet, in indie rock, some of the most loved acts of the past few years are appreciated more for their efforts to not change things up. Just this year, the likes of Spoon and Japandroids have released albums to certain amounts of acclaim for how much they sound the way they’re supposed to sound. With that precedent, it’s foreseeable that people would very much enjoy In Mind, the latest album from Real Estate. In fact, Real Estate has been the picture of consistency, working and honing a specific style until their songs feel effortless. In Mind is still very much the kind of album that one would expect and want from the band, but it also demonstrates the limits of their consistency.

Real Estate’s music has always been a mishmash of different sounds. The relaxed, chiming guitars recall everything from surf rock or jangly college rock, and the looping nature of some of their more recent work makes clear their love of jam bands. In Mind indulges in that jammier side more so than ever before, particularly through the guitar of new member Julian Lynch. The phaser effects from the band’s earlier work seemed to have left with former guitarist Matt Mondanile; Lynch’s guitar has a more natural tone to it, and Real Estate feel more like a traditional rock band as a result. While the cool, soft synth tones from keyboardist Matt Kallman add ethereal qualities to the likes of “Darling,” In Mind is committed to simpler, down-to-earth pleasures.

That simplicity ends up being its undoing, however. To be blunt, Real Estate’s mid-tempo, relaxed method of songwriting was starting to lose steam when Atlas came out, and Martin Courtney doesn’t seem to want to change up anything about how the band works. Each song ambles along at a languid pace while Courtney sings in his aching, soft tenor voice. It’s largely fine, and at times (like on “Darling” or the shimmering “Stained Glass”) it can be great. For the most part, though, few of these songs are distinguishable from one another, and they pale in comparison to what’s come before. Only “Saturday,” the album’s final, atypically-structured track, offers anything really fresh for the band. Otherwise, when something stands out, it’s usually because it sounds like a lesser version of the band’s older work (“Holding Pattern,” which is essentially a guitar-heavy re-write of their song “Pool Swimmers”) or because it veers uncomfortably close to ponderous jam territory (“White Light”).

In Mind is still a comfortable, easy listen, and yet one can’t help but think that it could have been something more. The acclaim given to Real Estate when they first broke through eight years ago was not unwarranted; they offered something genuinely interesting and different for indie rock at the time. While some would laud an album like In Mind for its consistency, it arguably reads more as complacency from the band. This is a decent record, and Real Estate will surely continue to put out more decent records as they continue on with their career. But it surely couldn’t hurt to change things up a little bit.

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