EL VY – Return To The Moon

Posted By on November 6, 2015

Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf met more than decade ago during their respective bands’ covering of the West Coast club circuit – and whilst that friendship remained, it’s taken the two of them over ten years to work together. The eventual result, is an indie-rock hybrid of kaleidoscopic instrumentals and the abstract lyricism Berninger has patented with The National – operating under the title of EL VY (which is pronounced, according to the band, like a plural Elvis).

Their debut outing, Return To The Moon, takes everything that is wonderful about their separate musical efforts and arranges them into a dual sound that is both delighted and desolate.  I’m The Man To Be has Berninger assume the character of washed-up artist, who blurs the lines between celebration and self-deprecation. ‘I’m peaceful ‘cause my / d##k’s in sunlight’ he purrs over Knopf’s angular guitar, whilst emphasising both the magnitude of his existential crisis – and the greenness of a particular shirt.

In Paul Is Alive, he relives his relationship with the sounds of his youth – using his mum’s Beetlemania-based life advice to reinforce an analogy about lost love. Again, it’s Knopf’s layered, multi-instrumental contribution that really allows the song to grow and take shape – under the umbrella of the Menomena and Romana Falls musician, Berninger seems care-free – liberated, even. His lyrics still carry the trademark despair listeners have to come to know and expect, but with EL VY, there’s a playfulness to the dejection. ‘Didi, I just saw the wildest thing’ he claims during It’s A Game, a woeful love song – that deals with a breakup – only this time, it’s the breakup of punk band The Minutemen.

It’s almost impossible to imagine the Ohio-born frontman without The National. Aided by the Dessenger and Devendorf brothers, he embodies the role of booze-soaked academic; rambling of love and melancholia is in his baritone whir, wine in hand, beard on face. But, with the platform Knopf’s compositions provide him – his usually covert dry wit is released – and once in the atmosphere, it’s difficult to contain. Whether it’s the synth solo in Need A Friend, or the haunting musical backdrop of Silent Ivy Hotel, Berninger comes across as freer; the professor is on annual leave – and he’s reveling in his lack of responsibility.

The album is a musical coupling of two binary approaches – but it never feels unconnected. The duo seem to wallow in the novelty of working together and the outcome is a genre-spanning work that is both thoughtfully preoccupied, yet outlandishly gorgeous. El Vy were a low-key coming-together – but Return To The Moon is anything but. It’s one of the best records of the year.

Posted by Station Manager

Station Manager of Burn FM.

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