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EL VY: Return To the Moon

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Melancholic dad-rocker Matt Berninger of The National recently joined forces with Portland’s Brent Knopf to create Return to the Moon, the debut for the duo’s new band, EL VY. With Berninger’s now famous baritone and Knopf’s crafty multi-instrumentalism, Return to the Moon is a not-so-serious album created by two often serious musicians. In a recent interview with The Oregonian, Knopf addressed this curiosity “Left to our own devices, music we often write can be more of a ‘Winnie-the-Pooh,’ Eeyore kind of character. Somehow when you put it together… there’s a sense of breeziness or adventurousness.”

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/01-Return-to-the-Moon-Political-Song-for-Didi-Bloome-to-Sing-with-Crescendo.mp3|titles=EL VY – Return To The Moon (Political Song For Didi Bloome To Sing, With Crescendo)]
EL VY – Return to the Moon

For fans of The National, Berninger’s familiar drôle delivery and disjointed drunk poetry are still present, but the emotional tone has shifted. Title track ‘Return to the Moon’ plays like a goofy dad reciting bad jokes to lush production; a tone further driven by lead single “I’m The Man to Be.” I’ll be the one in the lobby in the collared fuck me shirt. The green one. sings Berninger whimsically. Flitting between sincerity and slap-stick, EL VY sounds schizophrenic at times. I’d never been so alone, until I was today.. Berninger woefully sings on late cut ‘It’s a Game’. It’s the closest song emotionally to his work with The National, and unfortunately the best song Return to the Moon has to offer. Knopf is unequivocally a masterful musician, constructing tender yet complex cradles for Berninger’s brain children, but the end result barely equals the sum of its parts.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/07-Its-A-Game.mp3|titles=EL VY – Its a Game]
EL VY – Its a Game

For listeners unfamiliar with EL VY’s other projects, Return to the Moon may serve as an expertly produced collection of songs expressing a range of characters and emotions. As a muse for Berninger’s previously homeless stories, Return to the Moon never quite ascends beyond the annotation of a (mostly) forgettable side-project. Ignoring the first two tracks which seem to channel the unexpected bawdiness of a Bob Saget comedy routine, EL VY often feels like a sub-par record by The National. Return to the Moon is a series of inside jokes; maybe it’s better to just smile and laugh and pretend you understand.