Magic Sign is the second full-length solo record from Martin Courtney. Courtney is best known to many of us as the front man of indie mainstays Real Estate. The new solo album was written throughout 2020 and 2021, and comes from a nostalgic mindset but also with the thought of the songs emerging in a post-pandemic world, providing a soundtrack for better days of relief and optimism. If anyone can do this, Courtney’s soft voice makes him the perfect candidate to pull it off, as Magic Sign showcases both his songwriting skills and an upbeat hopeful delivery. It is exactly the album that Courtney described.
Magic Sign has the identity of a solo record but also has a large Real Estate vibe much like his debut solo album Many Moons (2015). For me, this is what I want to hear from Courtney as his voice just floats on every track regardless of tempo and diverting too far from his day job wouldn’t necessarily work. The catchy opening track, “Corncob” is an instant highlight as it features a pedal steel that moves with the acoustic guitar. “Time To Go” has a swaying synth that runs throughout the track, which comes across like a warm breeze as Courtney sings “Why are we the last to know, When it’s time to go, time to go.” It has a very carefree mood to it that reminds me of Mac DeMarco. Another interesting track here is the slow to mid-tempo instrumental “Mulch,” that just drifts like the laziest day you have ever had and works into the overall mood of the album.
What I really like about Magic Sign is its sincerity. Martin Courtney incorporates plenty of his sweet harmonies that Real Estate fans expect and you know the lyrics come from a place of meaning. The closing “Exit Music” especially is a nice finish as it professes his love for his wife. When he sings the line “It’s nice to see you in the fading afternoon, Stay with me through the night,” you can feel the bond. Magic Sign tells Courtney’s tales and captures a moment in time that is easily worth every minute you give checking it out.
“Corncob” / “Sailboat” / “Time To Go”
ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
Elliott Smith / Ari Roar / Yo La Tengo
MARTIN COURTNEY REVIEW HISTORY
Many Moons (2015)
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