Album of the Week: EL VY, 'Return to the Moon'

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EL VY, 'Return to the Moon'
EL VY, 'Return to the Moon' (4AD)

"How did I get here" – Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime"

Talking Heads get the most credit for the question, but it's one that we've all asked ourselves in those contemplative moods. There are peaks and valleys to a lifetime and sometimes it necessitates a moment of pause and reflection: How did you get to where you are? What made you this way? And EL VY seem to be contemplating these questions during a particularly rambling late night conversation. You know the type: good friends, just enough liquid courage, and a deep and meaningful conversation about life, friendship and the music that helped to shape you.

So, how did EL VY get here? Quick back story: Matt Berninger, of The National, and Brent Knopf, producer and writer for many bands including Menomena and Ramona Falls, met when they were youngsters just starting the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. When they stopped by to chat with The Current, they mentioned a few particularly rough nights on tour together early on, where the only people attending the show were members of each other's bands. Matt and Brent bonded and swore to work together at some point. Brent eventually sent over a file of 300 bits and pieces of songs. Working from these pieces, Matt was inspired to start jotting down some lyrics, and the musical collaboration had taken shape. Taking a break from their other projects, they teamed up over late-night conversations and recording sessions to pull this whole project together.

"I was in a moment for a moment" – EL VY, "Paul Is Alive"

What's the last really good conversation you've had? Chances are you weren't Snapchatting or halfheartedly "Yup, sure"-ing your way through it. You were listening and engaged the entire way through. EL VY make a good case for listening to an entire record; none of this singles crap. If you don't listen all the way through, you'll miss the conversation and all its subtleties. The first two tracks on Return to the Moon are the most fun — living the rock-star life with a smirk and a wink.

By track three, "Paul Is Alive," things start getting real. Matt's lyrics start dropping in more Ohio landmarks (where he grew up) and we get a story about growing up in a small town where you don't fit in, until you're "Sitting outside the Jockey Club/Crying in [your] 7-up", listening to "Hüsker Dü and The Smiths/The Sluggos, The Cramps go bup bup bup bup inside." One of Matt Berninger's greatest skills is his ability to make a mundane story heartbreaking and real. With the addition of Brent Knopf, these stories become catchy as hell. The combination of Matt's baritone and Brent's dance-floor ready beats creates a dissonance that is hypnotic and otherworldly.

"This is Bob Dylan to me/My story could be his songs" – The Minutemen, "History Lesson - Part 2"

As two musical friends, Matt and Brent seemed to forge a bond over a mutual appreciation for the seminal punk band The Minutemen. Return to the Moon is a tribute album, or at very least an ode to the friendship between the Minutemen's band members, who shared an equally deep musical friendship. There are sonic moments where the influence seems clear, but EL VY aren't trying to be coy with their allusions. Through some creative storytelling, EL VY jump into the minds of their musical heroes D. Boon and Mike Watts (referred to as Didi Bloome and Michael in the songs). Matt slips into the mind of Didi and Michael — Being John Malkovich style — and gets to be a part of The Minutemen's story with the songs "It's a Game" (Didi being addressed directly) and "Sad Case" (Michael receiving the call).

The Minutemen said, "Our band could be your life," and it seems like Return to the Moon is Matt and Brent's way of saying, "Yes, it was," and more than that, it inspired them to make music. It all returns to two friends who fell in love with a scene and with making music. The last song on the album, "Careless" tells us, "I still love you/I'm still falling."

Audience ratings for this album


Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 75 percent gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 12 noon on Friday, Nov. 6.

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