Release Date: Oct 30, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After residing on just this side of total obscurity, Real Estate (whose own real estate includes their home base in Ridgewood New Jersey) seem to be gaining traction. After an initial bow under their own auspices, they signed a recording deal with Domino Records and subsequently released their second and third albums, garnering critical praise in the process. Their sunny sound and penchant for pop embellishment seemed to be paying off, thanks to some high profile supporting slots on several major tours and prominent placement at the Pitchfork Music Festival, Coachella and the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona Spain.
Following closely on the heels of Real Estate bandmates Matt Mondanile (Ducktails) and Alex Bleeker (Alex Bleeker & the Freaks), bandleader Martin Courtney steps forward with his own 2015 "side project," his first solo album. Not straying far from Real Estate's Atlas issued a year prior, Many Moons is a mellow, psychedelic pop-flavored excursion through jangly guitars and mellifluous reflection. Far from a one-man effort, it features assistance from, among others, Real Estate keyboardist Matt Kallman, drummer Michael Stasiak of like-minded EZTV, and bassist (and EZTV/Ducktails/Alex Bleeker/Real Estate collaborator) Jarvis Taveniere, who produced the album.
It’s about time Martin Courtney made a solo record, what with his Real Estate bandmates sporting their own projects such as Ducktails and Alex Bleeker and the Freaks. The frontman recorded ‘Many Moons’ in downtime between tours, and many songs on the album - such as ‘Airport Bar’, for example - deal with our uses of time, whether it be spent well or wasted. Where Real Estate’s phenomenal ‘Atlas’ dealt with touring in a mellow and melancholic way, ‘Many Moons’ feels like its brighter, more optimistic take on journeying on the road.
Many Moons is the first solo offering from Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney. Though not a radical departure from the mellow vibe of his main gig, Many Moons takes Courtney just far enough outside of his comfort zone to make this an interesting standalone record, much more than just a collection of Real Estate castoffs. The nostalgia-soaked tunes you'd expect are definitely here, but with a paisley underground haze that helps to differentiate these songs from the Real Estate catalogue.Real Estate records resonate largely because they give weight to the everyday trials and tribulations of aging and adult life.
It takes a little while for the penny to drop, not least because Martin Courtney’s melodic, all-alt-American voice is so different to Lawrence’s nervy sing-speak. But once it does, it’s impossible to unhear: Many Moons might as well be a lost 11th album from the 80s indie cult heroes Felt. It’s there in the filigree lead guitar lines, in the subdued organ, in the occasionally jazzy chord changes, in the musical references to an imagined musical 60s in which you might have expected Burt Bacharach to be working with the Byrds.
Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney's solo debut, Many Moons, immediately announces itself as the finest side-project from a member of the band's camp. However, that's the only thing this record does do instantaneously. You could listen to the album-opener "Awake" about a dozen times before Courtney's languid soloing suddenly strikes you as an essential part of the composition.
Martin Courtney is rarely in a hurry to get anywhere. The bespectacled frontman of Real Estate floats through songs like a leaf on the autumn breeze, using the space between intro and coda to pour himself a cup of tea, spread his thoughts out on the table, and indulge his fingers’ inclinations as they slide across the fretboard. It’s not in his wheelhouse to grab you by the collar and pull you into his world; Courtney’s woolly brand of guitar pop is inviting enough, but it’s up to you to step inside and infuse each melody with meaning.
New Jersey’s Real Estate are stuck in a long, aimless summer. Across three full-lengths, the sleepy quintet have happily channelled the lethargy of a stagnant Sunday, with frontman Martin Courtney developing the glassy-eyed, trance-like vocal delivery of a stifled small-town moocher. Even their chiming, calling-card guitar lines, the drums pattering in tow like a friendly dog, feel rooted in some kind of apathy – Courtney’s vocals and the lead guitar of Matt Mondanile work together as though locked in conversation, creating a syrupy sonic mixture that’s somehow both optimistic and melancholic.
Leave it to Martin Courtney to turn a solo album into a gesture of self-effacement. The singer/guitarist's New Jersey band Real Estate have spent the last six years elevating effortless indie pop into a deeply moving art form, and his fellow group members have routinely worked in side projects—bassist Alex Bleeker with his woolly'n'rootsy Freaks outfit, and guitarist Matt Mondanile with the watery dreamscapes of Ducktails. But Courtney's debut solo outing arrives with his own name pushed to the fore.
If the words "Real Estate side project" don't exactly make for the most thrilling tagline for a new indie rock record in 2015, that's only because Martin Courtney, the singer-guitarist for the New Jersey band, is a bit late to his own crew's going-solo party. Now, after several respectable musical detours from his bandmates Alex Bleeker and Matt Mondanile, Courtney gets in on the fun with this partly-cloudy psych-pop set. Many Moons has its share of stunning moments, from the Roy Orbison-meets-the-Kinks orchestral title track to the homesick melancholy of the album's catchiest song, "Northern Highway," which finds Courtney dreaming of his Northeast hometown, bemoaning any place "where the seasons never change.
Awake is the opening cut of Martin Courtney‘s debut solo record, Many Moons, and in it he proclaims “what will be will be”. However, this is very much an attempt to break out of a routine. After three albums with Real Estate, and a heavy touring schedule for recent effort Atlas, he decided to find a new creative outlet for the songs he was writing on the road.
Despite releasing nothing as Real Estate this year, the New Jersey indie band’s members have not been idle. Frontman Martin Courtney’s solo debut follows an album from guitarist Matt Mondanile’s Ducktails side project; bassist Alex Bleeker’s own effort follows in December. Many Moons features many of the hallmarks of Courtney’s parent band: subtly insidious melodies and songwriting craft (think Teenage Fanclub, Yo La Tengo or Big Star at their least angst-ridden) triumph over superficial flash, and a gently unhurried mood pervades throughout.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. And so continues the tale of Real Estate. The band won't intrude on your life or get loud without warning. Its members have a handful of related projects you can use to expand your knowledge of the music, but most of it will trace back to the band's three great records.
Martin Courtney (the fourth, no less, as his Twitter handle would have it) has some catching up to do with his bandmate, Matt Mondanile. The two are clearly the key creative partnership behind Real Estate, but whilst Courtney’s downtime from the band - of which he’s probably had precious little since signing to Domino in 2011 - has yet to yield real musical fruit, with his attentions instead turning to parenthood, Mondanile has made five records under the Ducktails moniker, which have allowed him significant room to expand upon and experiment with the straightforward jangle-pop template of the band he’s in. With Many Moons, Courtney makes his solo debut with an album that feels far closer in its ties to Real Estate than most, if not all, of Mondanile’s own work.