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“Return to the Moon” by El Vy

“Return to the Moon” by El Vy


Return to the Moon, the debut album from El Vy, acts as a sort of neutral meeting ground for its two members.  Matt Berninger, of The National, tackles vocal duties, while Brent Knopf, late of Menomena, currently of solo project Ramona Falls, handles the instrumentation. Although both Berninger and Knopf spread their reach a little wider, neither sacrifices the unique ticks that make each so good in their other acts.

Berninger has said the album is meant to follow the love story between two characters, Didi and Michael–based in part on Mike Watt and D Boon of ’80s punk legends The Minutemen–but he’s also said the album is his most personal yet. This dichotomy is present throughout the album. In the first minute of title song “Return to the Moon,” Berninger sings, “Went to bed/woke up inside another man’s head/nobody noticed.” The song is subtitled “Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo,” but the song is mostly full of strange, abstract imagery.  Berninger sings of colorblind witches and scratching lottery tickets with the legs of crickets before, well over half way into the song, singing a few plaintive lines about a possible love story.

Some of Berninger’s forays into his adolescence strike a more resonant cord.  He sings about the formative part rock ‘n roll played in his life, starting before he even came into the world, telling us that “Beatlemania made my mother think the way she does.”  He goes on to sing about being marooned outside the Jockey Club while all his favorite bands played inside.

For his part, Knopf does a good job of matching the kind of slowed down, moody compositions that best fit Berninger’s default, slightly-mumbly style. There are more synths than you’d find on a typical The National album, but the sound is essentially a stripped down Ramona Falls, rarely stretching Berninger too far from comfortable territory. It would have been nice if Knopf had brought some of his weirder pop-rock sensibilities to the project, but his contributions provide adequate material for Berninger to work with. One notable exception, “I’m the Man To Be” pushes both artists in the direction of a strange, bluesy sort of almost-danceable music. When a cleaning lady interrupts Berninger, he leaves it in, embracing the experiment.

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El Vy won’t come close to replacing either artist’s main gig, but it’s a solid, occasionally great, excursion into slightly less familiar territory. »

– JP Kemmick