Album Review: El Vy, 'Return to the Moon'

What happens when two gifted musical friends find themselves between albums and have a creative itch to scratch? Luckily for us, they apply the best of themselves to a collaboration that results in something new and richly satisfying.

While each of their next albums with their bands percolate, Matt Berninger of The National and Brent Knopf, the Portland, Oregon-based frontman of Ramona Falls formed El Vy. Their album Return to the Moon turns out to be nothing less than a slice of alt-pop heaven, offering up the full range from funk to driving guitars and no shortage of catchy hooks. Berninger’s emblematic and beautiful baritone soars alongside Knopf’s fluid movement between techno and acoustic melodies and, more than with The National, Berninger plays with his upper range and the result is pure sweetness.

Berninger told Rolling Stone that this is his most personal of all his work and it shows in his lovely, often abstract yet emotive story lines that plumb the depths of his childhood in Ohio and the raising of his new daughter. But Return to the Moon is also playful and that’s where this project shines. “Need a Friend”is a tongue-in-cheek rant about to a buddy who let’s you down and “I’m the Man to Be” is about, well, his dick. The lightness comes not just in the lyrics but in the turns and phrasing of the music too, something fans of The National might sometimes find themselves wanting. It’s a brilliant counterpoint to Berninger’s voice. Apparently these songs were chosen from about 450 the pair had been working on over the last while. Let’s hope we get to hear more.

Go-to tracks: “Return to the Moon,” “Need a Friend,” “No Time To Crank the Sun,” “It’s a Game,” and “Happiness, Missouri.”

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