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A Sound Investment

Real Estate (the band) exemplifies the appreciating value of indie rock.

On a recent Wednesday after Fin 2, I found myself conversing with Martin Courtney, lead singer and founding member of the indie rock band Real Estate. Our chat was not about the probability of real frothiness in the US commercial real estate market, or the amusing coincidence that real estate is both a financial asset and the name of Courtney’s ensemble. Rather, it was a chance to talk about the band’s recently released sixth full-length album, and to reminisce about Real Estate’s 17-year odyssey in music – a tenure defying what is considered “normal” in an ever-changing industry marked by ephemeral notoriety.

In a landscape where success is fleeting, Real Estate's endurance in the indie music scene is noteworthy and, above all, authentic. The consistency in the band’s style and sound was as clear as ever as Courtney explained the main sources of inspiration for the band’s new record Daniel (out now via Domino) to the Harbus. What soon became clear was that this album marks a subtle, but deliberate, pivot towards a pop sound that is both familiar and explorative for the band.

Describing the essence of Real Estate's music is akin to painting a sunny landscape in August. The band’s tracks are catchy gems, compositions that are dreamy and contemplative, with cycling guitars, rolling rhythms, and gentle echoes that evoke tall grasses rustled by the wind. Some of the band’s songs could be soundtracks for aimless summer drives – the subtlety and unassuming nature of the tunes resembling the simplicity of past lives, no matter the complexities they once harbored. For Real Estate, a band that has made an art of this trademark sound, Daniel introduces a more pronounced pop element than in prior works. "We wanted to write an album of pop songs," Courtney revealed. With this goal, they anticipated a shift in structure and lyrics. “Daniel was an intentional effort to compose a pop record," he recalled.

 Daniel, however, doesn't stray too far from what fans have come to love about Real Estate. This is particularly true in “Somebody New” and “Water Underground,” the first and fourth tracks on the record.  Real Estate remains true to its roots, developing catchy guitar riffs into dreamy tunes that shimmer with echoes of sunshine and nostalgia. Reflecting on “Somebody New,” Courtney mentioned that this song came together "fairly quickly and we just knew it had to be the first on the record." Its dreamy quality makes it an immediate highlight, perfectly setting the tone for the album. It’s a sonic embodiment of daylight and the recollection of a bygone era, of a much simpler life. 

Courtney, along with bassist Alex Bleeker – who has also been part of Real Estate since inception – views Daniel as a testament to the ongoing evolution of indie rock. The genre thrives on reinvention while holding onto its essential characteristics. This record appears to be the band’s earnest declaration that indie rock can progress in new directions while remaining steadfast to its core.

For Courtney and Real Estate, the past 17 years have been about building upon their distinctive sound – preserving the dreamy undercurrents while layering in pop overtones to create something fresh yet unmistakably theirs. Daniel is the latest milestone on this journey, proving that indie rock idols like Real Estate can endure and flourish far beyond the short lives of one-hit wonders. Their music, like the properties their name conjures, is built to last, an investment of time that pays dividends in memories and melodies. 

Manuel Rubiano (MBA ’25) is a wine enthusiast and music nerd. He is from Colombia, and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in economics. Prior to HBS, Manuel worked in investment banking at Barclays in New York.

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