EL VY is the project of Matt Berninger, of the National, one of my favorite bands of all time, and Brent Knopf, (Ramona Falls & Menomena). The name of the band, “EL VY,” is still a mystery to me, in definition, but in pronunciation it’s something like what the plural form of “Elvis” would be if given the same rules as “Octopi” is to “Octopus.”
As described on the 4AD website, “the album is a project Berninger and Knopf have been thinking about for years.” Having sent files and melodies back in forth to each other for almost a decade, via The Postal Service style of album making, they finally went into the studio after the last the National tour for Trouble Will Find Me, and recorded the record that have now, Return to the Moon.
EL VY, is a weird project where Berninger can be more of a nerdy goof than he normally is in the National. What might be defined as “lounge rock,” the record has a kind of a wearily traveler who’s really into creepy harpsichord-like synths and blues progressions vibe. Tracks like “Silent Ivy Hotel,” my favorite track on the record, pretty much epitomizes that whole EL VY sound, which is an interesting turn of digital synth use that Berninger has never experienced with the National. Where the record does flop a bit however, is only in the first two tracks. Upon my initial listen, I wasn’t too fond of “Return to the Moon” or single, “I’m the Man to Be,” due to their more pop-alternative sound than I was used to having under Berninger’s voice. His voice fits way more interestingly over songs like “Paul Is Alive,” “Need a Friend,” and “Sleeping Light.” After those first tracks, I loved the record.
While some critics might trash the record as “gargling word-soup,” or “in need of an editor and an Advil,” I found the record to be a nice little side-project from the sound of the National that we’ve been so accustomed to with Berninger. Though the tracks might have a bit of pretension, Berninger’s “poet-laureate-of-the-upwardly-mobile-schtick” mocked by Pitchfork, is actually ironically a pretty good description of the record, and what I believe is more of a positive view of Berninger than they had set out to squash. If you like the National, you’ll probably like EL VY, and if you like just listening to new records, you might like EL VY.