EL VY: Return to the Moon (4AD) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019  

EL VY

Return to the Moon

4AD

Oct 26, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


People tend to think of an artist's side-project as having less credibility than his main output vehicle, but that should not be the case for EL VY. A partnership made up of Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Menomena and Ramona Falls, EL VY makes highly polished studio indie pop. The musical sensibilities of both members come through so strongly that it's easy to treat Return to the Moon as merely a debut album from a new band. In short, it's as good as one could possibly hope, given the two men's respective bodies of work.

In a sense, EL VY is a similar project to Divine Fits of 2012, a combination of the masterminds behind Spoon and Wolf Parade. One member is known for consistent and straightforward American rock music, and one for eclectic, nervous experimentation with studio sounds. Much of what has been said about Berninger revolves around his lyricism, which is in top form here. It is biting and dark; at times it's sincere and emotional and at others it's bitter, sarcastic, and hilarious. Really, he is our best lyrical humorist this side of Father John Misty. Check "I'm the Man to Be": "I'll be the one in the lobby in the green-colored 'Fuck Me' shirt/The green one." On "It's a Game," perhaps the album's most emotionally potent track, Berninger opens up about his influences and what they mean to him: "I've never been so alone/'Til I read that The Minutemen were dead." He's referring to the 1980s punk band whose members Mike Watt and D. Boon inspired Berninger musically, as well as the narrative of the entirety of Return to the Moon.

As for the music, Return sounds sublime. It's clear both musicians are completely at home in a studio, as every space in the album is filled with bouncing percussion, rich acoustic guitar, and substantial keyboard and organ textures. It's moody yet jaunty, and utterly cinematic throughout. All 11 tracks play like a series of scenic vignettes, almost like short films with a thematic through-line. Return to the Moon is a winning project, one that enlivens the careers of both artists involved. (www.elvy.co)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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