This EL VY article was written by Tim Burden, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
EL VY grew out of an exchange of song snippets between Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf, dating from their time sharing stages in the early Noughties with their respective bands The National and Menomena. Since that time The National have gone on to become one of the most critically acclaimed Indie-Rock acts currently working and Knopf has started his successful solo project Ramona Falls, but the exchange of song ideas continued until November 2014 when the pair came together to start work on what would become the LP ‘Return To The Moon’.
The unique stylings of both members are clearly evident throughout the album. Berninger’s baritone drawl and vivid lyrics are unmistakable on the magnificent ‘I’m The Man To Be’, written from the point of view of a lonesome deluded rock star and so saturated with sleazy tar-black humour that it almost drips. Likewise, Knopf’s imaginative cross-genre production is ever-present, bouncing effortlessly between the lush Synths of the title track and the relentless Queens Of The Stone Age-esque desert rock thump of ‘Happiness, Missouri’ via Piano balladry, fairground Organ stabs and a lorry-load of other sounds besides. The duo’s sounds complement one another perfectly to create a uniquely EL VY sound and at no point would any listener be at risk of thinking (or indeed wishing) that they were listening to either member’s parent acts.
There is a clear set of themes on the album including youth, young love and growing up in middle-America, often explored through a semi-autobiographical lens by Berninger, who has himself described the album as “the most autobiographical work I have ever written”. ‘Paul Is Alive’ for instance deals with the formative effects of bonding over music with like-minded people, Berninger reminiscing about the “waves of love” in the legendary (long-since closed) punk-rock venue The Jockey Club in his native Cincinnati. The outstanding ‘No Time To Crank The Sun’ is a beautiful song about looking for love, the uncertainty of whether you’ve found it and the destructiveness of holding out for perfection in a partner. Modulating between soft Piano choruses and dark trip-hop influenced verses it is a truly remarkable piece of song craft, the stand-out track on an album made up of nothing but high-points.
After repeated listens it is hard to conclude that ‘Return To The Moon’ is anything other than one of the best albums released so far this decade. It sucks you in on the first listen with its wealth of ear warming melodies, but the depth of Berninger’s lyrics and the nuanced nature of Knopf’s music mean that the album gets better with every repeat. Once EL VY are done touring this album then Berninger and Knopf are returning to work on new material with The National and Ramona Falls. In the meantime we just need to hope and pray that any EL VY follow up doesn’t take another decade to come out.
‘Return To The Moon’ is out on the 30th October 2015 via 4AD