Martin Courtney: Magic Sign (Domino/digital outlets)

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Martin Courtney: Magic Sign (Domino/digital outlets)

For some musicians, the most interesting thing they do is the interview: there they get to blabber on about their struggles, divorce, fears, emotional state, loneliness, social concerns, global warming and so on.


The album they're promoting is often just the consequence of all that -- or even incidental --and as we've called it here many times, “the album as therapy”.

Sometimes these albums are very good – the defense calls John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, Neil Young's Tonight's the Night and Grimes' Miss Anthropocene – but at other times you do feel you'd just like a break from their need for approval and psychology.

Which is why Elsewhere has always had a passion for power pop, the chiming guitars and harmony vocals, verse-chorus and usually just lyrics about love and loss.

Simple stuff.

So we welcome here Martin Courtney from New Jersey of the band Real Estate whose reference points are the Byrds, West Coast folk-rock, early Beatles, a smattering of Beach Boys, Dwight Twilley, Paul Westerberg and . . .

Powered-down power pop in that lineage through the Shoes (title of one track incidentally), Matthew Sweet, lightlydelic folk-pop (“in the basement of my mind, on a bike in 1999” he sings on Merlin) and so many more artists who rarely troubled us with their real or imagined struggles, separation anxiety, agoraphobia, unhappiness with the fame they rapaciously sought and were finally rewarded with . . .

Yet this is also intelligently adult, as on the heartbreaking separation ballad Living Rooms with “my hands are warm enough to play guitar, the kids are all in bed . . . I hope you get some sleep, from time to time I hope you think of me”.

I don't know what kind of interviews Martin Courtney does, but he doesn't sound like some Gen-Something special-pleader because on the evidence here he's far too intelligent for that.

Check out the rolling, Neil Halstead-like moonlight sound of Terrestrial or the classic Shoes-breeze of Exit Music at the end.

This utterly engaging album isn't public therapy, just a lovely, honest and thoughtfully engaging set of songs from someone you'd like to have the pleasure of meeting and talking with.

Because he'd listen more than blather on about . . . 

Much recommended.


You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here.

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