Words: Jordan Gorsuch
Estates are: Something deceptively out of reach, harsh, emotional, the party, the after-party, being alone, the smell of stale cigarettes, clear, esoteric, loving one’s own sadness…and so much more.
It’s Great to be Alone is the debut record from Estates, a trio based out of Milwaukee. Their sound is brittle and thick, murky and clear. The drums swing in like a hammer, reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate’s approach to production and songwriting. Harsh moments give way to bright, twinkly guitars and soothing moments of emotional clarity.
The album was recorded in just under 48 hours, 14 of those hours were dedicated to tracking the instruments. The band believes it works better under pressure, this approach seems to work under the themes and style of the record. Paranoid thoughts, frantic guitar lines, and a smart rhythm section comprises the backbone of this collection of songs. Although, it’s more than just a collection, there is a cohesive flow to this record; a palpable sense of anxiety sneaks its way throughout each track.
I spoke to Matt Tomashek (Drums/Vocals) about Estates’ writing process:
“We all experience hardships in one way or another. It took us about a year to write the album and during that time we we’re really looking into ourselves when it came to writing the songs… We each sort of a bring a piece to a song, sometimes someone has a bigger piece to contribute. It’s honestly a three way split when it comes to writing for the most part, we just find a way to combine all our ideas cohesively. Basically we each go through our separate shit and this album was our outlet.”
This marriage of songwriting from three perspectives gives the album a unique feel. Each song feels like its own being, but intelligently placed and perfectly paced within the album.
“Not Now,” the lead single off of It’s Great to be Alone starts with a lethargic, chugging rhythm. It’s the album in microcosm: its lethargic beginning gives way to startling outcry and explosive crescendos. The song is about physically being close, but emotionally being continents apart. Estates is very economical with its lyrics, with only a handful of lines found in each song. “At fifteen we were young and we didn’t know/everyone looked happy, how could we know?” The curse of being young, and blissfully oblivious.
“Full of Apologies” prompts some of the slower and emotional urgency that Brand New is so well-known for, it features some biting guitars and features some of the best instrumentals on the album.
The titular line cuts through on the beautiful centerpiece “Sandburg West,” Matt spoke about the conception of the track:
I got the idea for Sandburg West from listening to a song called “Up There” by the band Shinobu. I just loved the idea of a solo electric guitar and vocals for a song. Charlie wrote Sandburg West randomly one day by himself, which is the only song that we all didn’t collaborate on when writing it. He sent us a cellphone recording and we instantly loved it.
The band informed me that the proper sequencing of the album was a very conscious decision, they played the album front-to-back multiple times trying to parse out the placement of songs. The planning paid off, the first half of the album is distinct for its fast-paced and aggressive feel, and the second half is more subdued. Those last few songs are colder and bleaker, the walls are coming down.
Estates are grappling with the risk of searching for highs in this life. Finding happiness in your work, art, or your relationships, then dealing with the fallout when they’re ripped away from you. Repetition of lines transform them into mantras, “Your heart is always open wide/to those that keep you on the side” found on stand-out track “Slept In.” I asked Matt about this song in particular:
That is indeed the lyric I sing at the end of the song. I wrote “Slept In” as a way to express how I feel like I’ve been thinking about things from my past that haven’t helped me move forward with the things I want to do in life. Lost love, anxiety, depression. It’s a song about old wounds and I now feel like I can start writing songs about other things that greatly interest me.
No one knows what Estates will do next, or what great things they’ll focus on. However, we still get to chew on the confessional, concluding track “Looking” that beautifully closes out the album. Its lyrics are Joyce Manor-esque: “Sometimes I want to be ignored/the sun is lonely as its warm/I miss my best friend.” It’s blunt, it’s clunky, but it’s honest. Sometimes that’s all you need out of music.
Visit Estates’ Bandcamp page and download their album, or, visit Flannel Gurl Records and buy a physical copy of the album. The band will hit the East Coast this month, keep an eye on their Facebook for dates.