EL VY is the side project of The National front man Matt Berninger.  It is a welcome departure from Berninger’s typical melancholic musings. The lyrics read like some kind of random phrase generator. On Return to the Moon he spurts “scratched a ticket with a leg of a cricket / And I got triple Jesus.” As is his typical style, the track adds elements, arrangements, and chord progressions slowly as the mood builds, with crescendo. He takes a subtle jab at himself in the song title fully titled as Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo).

And that’s how this whole album plays out – like a sort of jab at himself, mocking the very distinct style of music that has made him so popular. I’m a Man to Be takes this theme to the next level in a NSFW ballad about a self-aggrandizing rocker in a hotel room.

Berninger returns to his baritone melancholy roots in Paul is Alive. “Beatlemania made my mother / Think the way she does / She always said ‘Don’t waste your life wishing everything was how it was’” he croons before his partner in crime, Brent Knopf, adds a jangly guitar melody. The duo meld grandiose and peculiarity in each subsequent track that slowly returns to Berninger’s more pensive side as the album progresses.

Still, the first few tracks serve as enough of a shock to realize Berninger is really trying something new – trying not to coast on the sound that has made him so popular over the last decade. And it kind of works.

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