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. The Real Estate guitarist is later to the side-project than his bandmates, but Many Moons is better than any of those others. Courtney knows how to write a tune as well as make a mood: Northern Highway would have been easy to over-arrange, but it’s done to a turn, just lush enough, but with space to breathe. Don’t be expecting Lawrence’s way with words, though – there are no rains of crystal spires here, and seven cannons remain stubbornly unignited. Courtney is a functional lyricist, though there’s a focus on the world of sleep and dreams – in both Asleep and Airport Bar – that suggests he’s reaching towards words that reflect the perfect somnabulance of the music.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian