Martin Courtney - Many Moons

by Mark Steele Rating:9 Release Date:2015-11-01

Usually when a frontman of a group sets out to make a solo album, there is a success not only measured by individual value and content, but also by how it fares without the involvement of the other band members. With this solo venture, Martin Courtney of Real Estate could have continued the familiar formula that signified the sound of the band over three albums, involving Guitarist Matt Mondanile and Bassist Alex Bleeker (now with their own different sounding projects Mondanile with Ducktails and Bleeker with Freaks respectively).

Though they do not feature here, he has enlisted Real Estate Keyboardist Matt Kallman, Art-Pop Experimentalist Julian Lynch and Lo-Fi band Woods’ own Jarvis Taveniere to produce the 10 track release.

Many Moons has an inviting cohesiveness, and it certainly advances optimistically from the last Real Estate album ‘Atlas’. The distinctive key elements for me are the elaborate orchestration, the familiar reverb of Real Estate has been removed in order to filter through as a simply effective and economical layered sound sphere.  

Without any effort, I hear within this album influences of The Byrds, America, alongside the already compared Big Star, blending a 1960’s/1970’s Psychedelic Power West Coast Pop oasis mainly through the sun soaked vibrations of the vocal melody style, the jangly guitar, smooth bass and compressed drum sound. There is a notable package of string arrangements contained within and I think some additions of a Mellotron.

The title piece is an instrumental upbeat skipper and carried by a sylvan flute melody, held well with compassionate strings. Co-existing highlights are lead-in ‘Awake’, a warming selfless account of new found fatherhood, ‘Northern Highways’ comes across as a travel weary diary entry, ’Vestiges’ (Same in vein as ‘Little Blue’) has a rounded Bread/David Gates jazzy kind of feel lyrically expressing the finite value cycle of people and places including the title phrase ‘This place is like a column of Stone/many moons for it to grow/phases they will come and they will go’, the blatantly retrospective passport picture obsessive ‘Foto’, and final track ‘Airport Bar’ picks up the pace and yet looks at thinking about the benefit of whether to remove or remain – a stuck moment in the transit lounge maybe?

Thematically, each track send themselves out as dreamy landscape postcards illustrating Courtney’s life journey transitions with reflective ponderings and musings of the mind. If embraced as an unofficial fourth album, it could still divide some existing Real Estate fans and most likely gain new ones, however time will tell.

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