Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Art of the Cover - Real Estate's "Atlas" (2014)

A wonderful piece of artwork adorns Real Estate's sublime third LP, Atlas - one of the albums of the year, in my view.

Design was by Rob Carmichael with photography by Irmgard Carpenter - a shot of the 200-foot-by-50-foot Alexander’s Mural, in  Paramus, New Jersey, painted by Stefan Knapp. 

Alexander's was a department store chain in the New York metropolitan area catering to low- and middle-income consumers. It was founded in 1928 by George Farkas, 

Alexander's' Paramus, New Jersey store was famous for a mural painted for the store by Polish artist Stefan Knapp. 

After seeing Knapp's work at Heathrow Airport in London, George Farkas commissioned Knapp to paint the mural for the store. When it was completed in 1961, the mural was the largest in the world, measuring 200 feet by 50 feet and weighing over 250 tons. It is still believed to be the largest, although no study has been done to corroborate this.

After Alexander's went out of business in 1992, the mural remained on the closed store until 1996. At that time, since no buyer had emerged for the property, Vornado elected to demolish the building so a new retail complex could be built on the land. 

On his way to work one morning Will Roseman, mayor of the Bergen County borough of Carlstadt and a fan of the mural, saw the demolition and contacted Vornado chairman Steve Roth, who gave him a week to come up with a plan to save Knapp's work. Roseman contacted Sotheby's, who appraised the work, then was able to find a non-profit group to take possession of the mural enabling him to use the moving costs as a tax write-off for Roth. 

The Bergen County Museum of Art and Science became the mural's caretakers and the piece was disassembled and stored in the Carlstadt municipal garage, where it currently sits.

Recorded at Wilco's studio, in Chicago, Atlas expands upon the pastoral lushness of 2011's breakout album Days.  

Here in the more mature and complex Atlas, though the band's basic sound hasn't changed - frontman Martin Courtney's clean-strummed open chords, Matt Mondanile's bright leads, and a light-stepping rhythm section all squish together comfortably like college housemates sprawled on a sectional sofa - but the mood has. 

The result is at once their most forlorn album and their most beautiful.

On Real Estate's rich, sad third album, Atlas, the once-ideal pool party band has turned to soundtracking the cleanup: Everyone's gone, the sky's threatening rain, there are cigarette butts floating in the pool, and we've all gotta work tomorrow. The result is at once their most forlorn record and their most beautiful. Atlas gazes calmly and wisely into the face of some troubling questions: Mortality, the passing of time, the problem of loneliness. With it, Real Estate have made more than just their third excellent record in a row, more than just their best-ever record. They’ve made the first record of their career that feels like it might teach you something over time. 
By Jayson Greene @ pitchfork.com


1. Had To Hear
2. Past Lives
3. Talking Backwards
4. April s Song
5. The Bend
6. Crime
7. Primitive
8. How Might I Live
9. Horizon
10. Navigator

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