Return to the Moon

Written by: MIN on 25/11/2015 14:25:56

For several years, Matt Berninger (The National) and Brent Knopf (Menomena, Ramona Falls) had been pondering about making a new project together, but they didn’t actually form their new band, EL VY, until last year. And although one could fear that the project’s overall sound might draw too much on one of the two musician’s main band and not the other, EL VY stands out as a beautiful mix of Berninger’s weird lyrical universe and classic baritone voice, and Knopf’s sense of musical playfulness.

The album’s first song and single, the title track “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)”, tastes of Knopf doing just what he wants to do: The intriguing guitar-riff throughout keeps the listener interested, the strange keyboard-sounds and classical piano playing now and then spices things up, and Matt Berninger’s knack for mysterious lyrics keeps you coming back for interpretation:

“Bought a saltwater fish from a colorblind witch // Cause she said she loved it // Couldn’t tell her the part that would break her heart // But it loved me.”

On the subject of odd lyrics, the following song “I’m the Man to Be” contains one of the most disturbing topics you’ve heard him croon about: Autoerotic asphyxiation. A rock star with family issues who spends his time inside a hotel room, drunk with sticky hands and the belt too tight, whose only relieve is the occasional lack of oxygen. The chorus says it all: “I’m peaceful cause my // dick’s in sunlight // held up by kites // cause I’m the man to be.”

These are strange ideas that are fun to listen to, but the album also contains more serious subjects than that: “Paul is Alive” and “It’s a Game” both center on some of Berninger’s favorite bands: The Beatles and The Minutemen, and the album’s centerpiece, “No Time to Crank the Sun”, features the album’s most emotionally heavy lyrics. Regret, loneliness and old love are keywords, and the music around them is beautifully composed. The song starts with some delicate piano playing, a deep, humming choir in the back, and a slow drumbeat. As the track progresses, both keyboards and guitars add layers that follow the melody, and the choirs in the back get louder towards the song’s climax. Excellently executed.

Musically, the album shows a lot of diversity as it pushes several different buttons throughout that puts emphasize on various instruments: There’s a heavily distorted guitar in “Sad Case”, an acoustic guitar by the end of “It’s a Game”, and thick synthesizers in “Paul is Alive”. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between EL VY and artists such as Beck and Eels as the album goes from high and heavy to somber and drowsy. While this works really well most of the time, there are a few tracks where the diversity and playfulness don't pay off just as much: “Need a Friend” exists on a plane between upbeat and monotonous that adds no flavor, and “Sleeping Light” has the same tendency despite its interesting use of flute and keyboard.

Ultimately, EL VY is a successful collaboration between two interesting musicians, but most importantly, it’s a project where the playing field is divided evenly between them and thus becomes a sound of its own. Whether you’re a fan or not of Knopf or Berninger, you might end up liking this album. Obviously, there are trademarks to be found when you’re talking about a character as recognizable as Matt Berninger, but the adventurous music evens out the charismatics. Yet, the album’s great variety unfortunately also causes it to be flawed in cohesion, and the second half of the record doesn’t quite hold up to the first one in terms of songwriting. With their debut album “Return to the Moon”, EL VY have safely landed. Now, let’s see if they’ll ever get back to Earth.

Download: No Time to Crank the Sun, It’s a Game, Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)
For The Fans Of: Beck, Eels, Talking Heads, The National
Listen: facebook.com/ELVYclub

Release date 30.10.2015

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