BEST OF 2015: 13. Martin Courtney ‘Many Moons’

Real Estate have released several lovely records in recent years; floaty, reverb-drenched sunny afternoons for the ear, but I can’t say they’ve ever quite wowed me. Their various spin-off solo projects – Alex Bleeker and the Freaks and Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails – have been similarly pleasant, but this record is something rather special. Having been on the receiving end of that laziest of reviewers’ scores 7 from many publications, you could be forgiven for thinking it was more of the same. I beg to differ.

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From the off, it’s clear that the fondness for shimmering melody and lilting guitar is still present, but it’s a much cleaner, more delicate sound. A vintage Americana runs through these songs, brushed with a more autumnal palette than his home band. ‘Awake’ offers mid-paced jangle that will entice lovers of The Byrds and the beautifully understated strings of ‘Foto’ make obvious the difference in territory between this album and last year’s Real Estate offering ‘Atlas’.

Vestiges’ is bestowed with a gloriously pretty riff from the off and feels a little bit like a Mac DeMarco who tries harder to actually finish his songs. “The more things change, the more things stay the same,” Courtney sings, sounding oddly like Tim Burgess at his most angelic. While not entirely built upon the same musical DNA, fans of Teenage Fanclub’s comfortingly warm approach will find much to love on ‘Many Moons’.

Lead single ‘Northern Highway’ is a stridently upbeat pure pop burst and one of several moments of unabashed euphoria on the record. Courtney’s vocal feels intimate and involving shorn of the reverb so generously applied when part of Real Estate’s work and the plucked acoustic glistens throughout. Towards the song’s close, there is an insistent build towards a miniature crescendo where a piano rises to the fore and the melody struggles to break loose. It is one my favourite musical moments of the entire year and reason enough to bang on about this delightful record.

The instrumental title track is another which makes fine use of strings along with some delicately applied flute, while ‘Airport Bar’ adopts a chugging beat which swirls hypnotically. “Don’t go forgetting about me,” he repeatedly intones towards the end and it is a fittingly composed way in which to conclude ‘Many Moons’. For a solo sidestep, it is remarkably complete and with repeated attention it has the capacity to truly enthral. A joyous and unexpected late highlight of 2015 which is not to be missed.

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