It is no secret that I absolutely adore The National. So it should be no surprise that I love this new release by singer Matt Berninger. Despite my adoration, I know that for many The National are a bit one note, same-y and depressing. They are wrong, but that’s just my opinion. For those who struggle to find get into The National this release under the moniker EL VY might be just what you need. It is different enough to not sound so same-y and actually has a much happier tone, but still is composed of Matt Berninger stereotypical baritone. If you have friends or partners who rave about The National but you fail to hear it, now is you chance to fall in love. EL VY is different enough and groovy enough for the casual listener to enjoy and might just be the gateway drug to the much better National.
For the longest time I was under the impression that what made The National so great were the instrumentals, but several releases by Clogs I found that without Matt they weren’t nearly as captivating. There is something that works so beautifully about the combination of The National‘s music and Matt Berninger‘s vocals. With EL VY it is like taking those same vocals and putting them over Menomena‘s instrumentation. It is far more dancable, cheerful and fun than anything The National has produced. Menomena creates some great addictive Indie Rock and the collaboration seemed to me a strange partnership, but still it works incredibly well. As a fan of both bands, I fully expected to enjoy Return To The Moon but I was shocked at how much I loved it. From start to finish it sounds unique to The National and almost as good. Every track on the album is great, and only occasionally on the softer tracks does it resemble The National, but Brent Knopf does a great job of giving these slower tracks a bit of his more electronic influence.
“Return To The Moon (Political Song For Didi Blume to Sing, with Crescendo)” – This was the first track that they premiered and it is one of the most addictive on the album. It does well to showcase both musicians talents and display that this album would be different for both of them.
“I’m The Man To Be” – Track 2 is definitely the most addictive on the album, though with each subsequent listen I like most of the other tracks more. It is certainly memorable and a likely favorite of many. Give it a listen and this track might single-handedly hook you.
“Paul Is Alive” – This is my favorite of the album, but sounds a lot more National-y. The instrumentation is still quite different and remarkably lovable. The song comments a lot on Matt Berninger‘s youth and influences, the title references the supposed death of Paul McCartney. It might take a few listens to become attached to this one, but I’m sure with opportunity you’ll love it to.
“No Time To Crank The Sun” – At the start this track feels the most like The National but it builds and Brent Knopf establishes his mark and makes this track something incredible. It is a beautiful soft song that it is hard not to like. The only downside is it might be thought of as a tad depressing like much of The National‘s work.
Overall, Return To The Moon is a phenomenal album… or is it menomenal? Either way, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. This provides a more accessible glimpse at why so many people love The National. It is a great album in its own right, and might be one of the best of the year. It is much more diverse than anything either of the artists have done, and sounds like they are both out having fun. For me, it never quite reaches the quality of The National and makes me long for a new album, but still it is incredibly strong. I can’t help it, I think it deserves a 5 out of 5 stars.
“I’m The Man To Be”
“Return To The Moon (Political Song For Didi Blume to Sing, with Crescendo)”
“Paul Is Alive”