EL VY Proves to Be More Than Just a Side Project, with Debut Release, “Return to the Moon”

el vy

The much buzzed about EL VY creates an inspiring album, Return to the Moon, out now via 4AD. Consisting mainly of Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls/Menomena, what the duo creates is something honest, heartfelt, and truly unique.

Like when all high profiled musicians break off from their main band, there seems to be a bit of a back and forth skeptical reaction that travels throughout the internet. I believe it was in Pitchfork that I had read a blurb stating that Berninger and Knopf were “incompatible” as musicians. To be honest, yes, they kind of are incompatible as musicians; but on the bright side, that is exactly what makes this combination work well.

The first two singles shined light on the blending of two parties; first with “Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)” and the follow up “I’m the Man to Be.” The first singles were definitely a departure from Berninger’s deep and heavy sounds of The National, but it allowed us to see a more upbeat version of what he has to offer. Knopf on the other hand, brings a stunning element of instrumentation to the table that sometimes provides a lively vibe, and other times, a haunting and unusual sound. The mixture of these elements seem to work completely, as they weave throughout each track of the record.

The biggest misconception that a listener can have going into this, is that it’s going to sound like a “National” record. It’s not. Then Berninger would just be working on National songs right now (Right? Right.). What would be the point? The voice is there, but the content isn’t always as heavy. You’re going to dance, you’re still going to get depressed as hell, and you are going to love every moment of it.

Releasing a series of lyric videos directed by the multi-talented Tom Berninger, it provides multiple songs with an intimate look to capture your attention even more. Tracks such as “Happiness Missouri” bring a haunting, yet determined sound into play, while harmonies fill the album in pieces such as “Silent Ivy Hotel,” or the chilling musicianship of “Paul is Alive.” Songs such as “No Time to Crank the Sun,” offers up Matt’s signature delicate crooning, as “Need a Friend,” shares a more vibrant sound, that brings Knopf’s intricate brand of musicianship to the table. Together they create a truly special musical experience within Return to the Moon.

Each piece on the record is strong enough to stand on their own, which is perhaps why the group decided to release a track one at a time leading into the record. Return to the Moon is perhaps the finest record of 2015; mark my word.

EL VY is currently on tour, recently kicking off their Eastern U.S. dates, with two stops in New York. Friday at Bowery Ballroom, and Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. See you there kids.

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Jonathan Boulet – “You’re A Animal”

Fans of Jonathan Boulet‘s self-titled début may be somewhat thrown upon first listen to “You’re A Animal.” The newest track from the Australian folk-pop artist offers a sneak peek at his forthcoming sophomore album (set to be released next year), and it indicates a significantly new direction in his sound. From the very first note, “You’re A Animal” announces itself as a martial anthem powered by a relentlessly pounding drum rhythm. With lyrics like “I will soldier on…and on, and on, and on!” being chanted over a soundfield of guitar and myriad indeterminate instruments, the song leaves no space for the sort of reflective rumination that pervades (most of) the first album. Gone is anything acoustic, and likewise any lines as meditative or somber as, for instance “March to the Poles and meet me there/ Leave all your wars and all your cares/ Find me and you, my name, but I can’t remember you/ Would you go?” (from “North to South East to You”).

But it would be flat out wrong to suggest that these almost defiant gestures of ceaseless energy – which are at once carnal and furious – have no precedent in Boulet’s prior work. Disappointed – or shocked – fans should note that they didn’t just appear from nowhere. Just give “Ones Who Fly Twos Who Die” another listen; though less of a full-fledged manic attack than “YAA,” the tune features the same “tribal” tympani sound and choral vocals. Both tunes seem to reveal a range of influences, from Animal Collective’s Water Curses EP to fellow-Aussie Xavier Rudd to, of all things, Chumbawumba (yeah, I went there… bet you didn’t see that one coming).

In short, there are continuities that shouldn’t be overlooked. And frankly, what Boulet is doing is technically more interesting than before. “YAA” contains atmosphere and confusion, and it brings to the listener an almost cinematic feeling of being chased through the forest. Some may lament the loss of the more personal voice that showed on the self-titled album, but I, for one, look forward to the next full-length release to see what the dizzying swirl of energy unveiled here yields.