El Vy’s “Return to the Moon” Offers Playful, Personal Pop-Rock

15 Mar

El Vy is a side project of two well-respected indie artists: Matt Berninger from The National and Brent Knopf of Menomena. Due to the stature of these two individuals, El Vy’s debut album Return to the Moon was awaited with great expectations. That has led several music critics to pan the result. But one wonders whether that would have been the case if this were the debut from band full of unknown artists.

One critic complained that he expected the work from Berninger and Knopf to be more experimental. When Return to the Moon turned out to simply be an excellent pop-rock album, he gave it a poor review. But is that the way to treat art? To review an album with preconceived notions of what the work should be?

Here’s what Return to the Moon is: a comfortable, leisurely trip through the world of indie pop-rock, filled with lyrics that provide insight into Berninger’s inner world. The album opens with a great lead single, the title track “Return to the Moon.” The song is bouncy and fun, with funky guitar riffs, a cool bass line and electronic hand claps — plus Berninger’s casual, almost spoken vocals.

The third track is “Paul Is Alive,” in which Berninger wistfully recalls his childhood years in a family with a mom who was raised on Beatlemania. The arrangement is a playful romp, with guitar, piano and a synth soundscape, plus great background harmonies.

Jumping ahead to the sixth track, “No Time to Crank the Sun” is reminiscent of The National — starting spare and softly and building to dramatic crescendos punctuated by guitar and synth.

“It’s a Game” also has a memorable melody in a song that sounds a bit like The War on Drugs. Berninger’s vocals again are once again understated and from the heart.

In one of the reviews I read, Berninger is quoted as saying this is the most personal album he’s ever done. I agree. Overall, Return to the Moon is a very enjoyable pop-rock album that offers a window into Berninger’s soul. And from that perspective, it’s an honest piece of art that I think you’ll enjoy

One note: the second track, “I’m the Man to Be,” is quite graphic. If that’s an issue for you or family members, just beware.




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