EL VY (it rhymes with Hell Pie, obviously) is the new collaborative project from The National front-man Matt Berninger and his former tour-mate and long term chum Brent Knopf of Menomena and it sees Berninger’s magnificently world-weary vocal drawl presented in a whole different light. ‘Return To The Moon’ is a difficult beast to pin down, lurching through a number of stylistic shifts and shifting in tone from the tongue-in-cheek to the disarmingly honest… Perhaps being untethered from the weight of the day job this is Berninger at his most playful and liberated. Seemingly playing an elevated caricature of himself and the ‘poet laureate of the 21st century ageing indie-idol’ role others have pinned on him, Berninger hangs out in hotel lobbies, has break-downs when an un-named party fails to bring him weed and generally wallows in glorious, knowing, melancholy. There’s also references to his mother’s Beatles obsession, later echoed in his own heartbreak at hearing the Minutemen had broken up which ironically are some of his most candid and direct.
Musically Knopf throws every trick at his disposal at the album resulting in a diverse set of songs which lurch from freaky-funk to more standard majestic indie fare. The album has plenty of outstanding moments where the songs reach moments of euphoria, but it’s a different kind of epic to The National’s great crescendo’s, these songs are certainly closer to pop structure’s than anything the Dessner twins have crafted and as such it’s a joy to hear a totally different context for Berninger’s voice.
Who knows if this will be a one-off collaboration, but for now this is a winning diversion from the day job for one of the finest front-men around