Over their first three albums, Real Estate seemed to have found the formula for making good records. They had mastered the art of layering an endless supply of hooks, riffs and melodies on top of each other without disorienting the listener, gently balancing out their latent jam band tendencies in the process. Before long, the group took their rightful spots alongside Mac DeMarco at the fore of the jangle-pop revival.
But while the band quickly found their stride and stuck to it, In Mind exposes the fragility of their framework. The first record without co-founder and lead guitarist Matt Mondanile, who left last year to focus on his Ducktails project, it finds the band struggling to find their footing in his absence.
The start of the record is hopeful. Opener and lead single "Darling" charmingly noodles its way through some deceptive time signature trickery, a quick "stop and think" moment that promises something a little more cerebral, while "Serve the Song" makes a case for wah pedal as a replacement for Mondanile's lead riffs.
But once that's over, In Mind's tracks either fail to make an impact without Mondanile's coolly commanding guitar lines, or worse, are failed experiments. Centrepiece "Two Arrows" drags out a middling riff way past its expiration date, without the meditative build that anchored earlier jams; the static pulse of a drum machine drags down "Time"; "Diamond Eyes" comes off as a cross between country twang and a Shaker hymn; and just when "Saturday" seems like it's going to be a slow-burning, emotional closer, it simply speeds up, content to let the moment pass by. And so it does. (Domino)