Wednesday, 13 January 2010

“Moonlight Mile” – The Subtle Influence of the Rolling Stones on Real Estate



This Real Estate album is frequently compared to Flying Nun pop and early Yo La Tengo, something which singer/guitarist Martin Courtney has copped to and it shows. So I get these comparisons but listening to this record, it striking how much the album’s dual guitar sound owes to the Rolling Stones’ combo of Keith Richards and a rotating roster of guitarist sidemen. The Stones’ influence interests me more because it’s less readily apparent. RE don’t do the uptempo rockers that the Stones could play in their sleep in their 63-79 heyday, but the band's ethereal guitar pop is definitely indebted to the guitar interplay of Mick/Keith ballads.

Listen to “Moonlight Mile” off 1971’s Sticky Fingers. "Moonlight Mile" is a bit unusual in the canon of Glimmer Twin songs, because Keith wrote the guitar riff but doesn’t play it on the record. Here Mick Jagger plays the song’s Oriental-sounding acoustic riff while Mick Taylor spins out fluid electric riffs.

Download: The Rolling Stones – Moonlight Mile

Juxtapose “Moonlight” with Real Estate’s “Snow Days”. Guitarist Matthew Mondanile and Courtney trade off chiming, circular guitar lines that weave thick tapestries around each other.

Download: Real Estate – Snow Days

They employ another sonic tactic borrowed from early 70s Stones, a dense yet never-overwhelming layering of melodies. Listen to the way the strummed guitars intertwine with the double-tracked vocals, how the electric guitar plays off Martin Courtney’s voice. Just beautiful.

Here’s a relevant bit of text from Courtney on his classic radio influences, via Pitchfork:

MC: We try to be influenced by really classic songwriting, so I can see the oldies influence. We try to write songs that are just classic pop songs and then stretch out certain sections of them to make it a little bit jammier or to emphasize things that wouldn't normally be emphasized in your average classic rock song, to try to make it a little bit different or a little bit more up-to-date. You can write a pop song and put a bunch of effects on everything, and it'll make it sound a little bit more modern. We just try to keep everything sounding sort of spaced out and underwater.

Bonus: An incredible version of “Moonlight Mile” by the 5th Dimension. This is much more emotionally direct and bombastic version of the song, but damn, it’s kind of heartrending. Even if they change “the head full of snow” to “sky full of snow”, it just makes the song more seasonally appropriate.

Also, isn’t this alternate Russian cover for Sticky Fingers 10 kinds of awesome?

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