Any fan of The National is going to be intrigued by the lure of singer Matt Berninger’s lustful, baritone voice over funky and above all dance-able music - from Brent Knopf of ‘Menomona’ fame. When you listen to The National, you know you’re going to be taken into a brooding bubble of bliss. But EL VY is something else.
If an album from The National feels like Berninger has drank All Of The Wine then Return To The Moon feels like he’s going to a house party to drink neat whiskey and get his two-step on - and it’s great to hear that side of Berninger. Although he’s as intelligent and thought provoking as always, you get a real sense he’s enjoying this new style of music to work with. This is a record that feels like he’s earned his weekend after a tough five days at work.
He’s been quoted as saying this album is his most personal so far but I’m not sure that’s entirely true; lyrics such as 'Scratched a ticket with a leg of a cricket and I got triple Jesus' from the title track standing out.
That line is strange. But I guess if Beck has been able to forge a career out of meaningless lyrics then Berninger can do it on a side project. Playful lyrics and funky sounds aside, this is a seriously strong record with some truly brilliant songs on. "No Time to Crank the Sun" is a particular highlight.
Knopf deserves great credit for drawing Berninger out of his comfort zone to open up and inform us of him being 'the one in the lobby in the green collared fuck me shirt…the green one'. The smooth beats from Knopf allow Berninger to be loose and relaxed yet as intensely sexual as ever, perhaps more.
The house party vibe EL VY give settles down on the last two tracks; it’s the part where you’ve spoken to your crush and you want to be serious. "Happiness Missouri" and "Careless" are incredible; the latter could certainly be deemed worthy of a party closer and a place on an album by The National.
This band could be dismissed as a mere side-project and a filler before the latest album from Berninger's 'other band' - but nobody should be surprised if we get another Return To The Moon.