There’s a lot of noise out there. As I’m writing this, I can hear a street cleaner, a garbage truck backing up and generic traffic mixed with light wind and leaves. They’re not unpleasant noises, but they can be grating when you’re trying to avoid distractions and get things done.
For that reason, I find that I am constantly looking for something beyond sound: the perfect ditty to match my mood, while simultaneously blending into the background of my day. Is this something that you think about? If so, here’s a quick pitch for EL VY being your soundtrack today.
The first time I heard EL VY was while I was driving to Kingston, and I was thrown to hear Matt Berninger’s voice outside of The National. I remember instant confusion over how there could be two people with such a clear, deep baritone. I thought I was going crazy. Curious, I investigated: EL VY is a new side project that Berninger started with Brent Knopf, of the bands Menomena and Ramona Falls. It has been something “they were thinking about for years” and deviates from the more sombre and slow paced music The National is known for [think: ‘Fake Empire’, ‘Exile Vilify’, ‘I Need My Girl’].
The song ‘Return To The Moon’ is upbeat, creative and picks up at the end of the song in a way that always makes me want to break out into a run. The whole album, also titled “Return To The Moon” is eclectic gold. ‘I’m the Man to Be’ is an upbeat but also gritty piece, while ‘Sleepin’ Light’ uses a variety of electric and synthesized sounds to paint a much more surreal, club like feel. It takes you through several moods and states, and shows new sides from Berninger.
“Did I just saw the wildest thing
Watched the sun just walk into the ocean
Nothing I could do
Gone before I knew”
This is the first line of the first song they played when I saw them in concert. The song is called ‘It’s A Game’. Modest white lights against the black backdrop of the stage gave the music that much more of an intimate feeling. You know that feeling when you hear a song and think ‘that guy is singing right to me’. Here was Berninger literally singing to me*.
[*And ten or so other people and the people in the lighting booth and probably a few roadies. But really, me, me me.]
There was a power in the simplicity of beautiful lyrics coming from a composed, calm musician. It was a little like if Aslan could sing. In fact, I feel pretty confident in saying that if Aslan were a non-fictional human instead of a lion in a book, he’d be a lot like Berninger.
Next they played ‘No Time To Crank The Sun’. Berninger was, again, unusually stoic in this song. I’ve seen him play with The National, and while he had been a frenetic jumble of limbs and energy in many of their songs, with EL VY, eyes closed, he stood connected to the microphone and us as an audience.
“I was driving
Walking way too far out on
Some broken branches
Sometimes where you’re going
Is hard to see”
The simultaneous melancholy and optimism of the piano line, coupled with Berninger’s deep and earnest voice to freeze frame a moment. I was hyper aware of everything from the blue lights framing him as he sang on stage, to the grip of his hands on the microphone, to the synthetic warmth of my tuque, to the worn nature of my shoes.
That’s the power of discovering a band or a song that resonates with you in a moment: you connect it with not just your senses, but everything happening around you. It works like the mechanical synchronicity of a wind up watch, except the hands don’t measure time, but instead direct you to a sense of purpose, a feeling of intense belonging.
When EL VY came onstage for the concert later, The Opera House had filled up, packing in warm, eager bodies and muffling the acoustics. I was caught this time with the communal connection. Each song they played had the same feeling of organic honesty, and the crowd seemed to buy in to the moment as a mass group as well. They swayed and caterwauled as the light projectors created beams of light and shadows across the musicians’ faces.
That’s the power of discovering a band that will become part of your soundtrack. It gives you the feeling of a living link, not just to the song but all aspects of an individual moment. The people around you, the adrenaline, the breeze when a door is opened for someone to go for a smoke break.
Forget finding your fragrance – I think the next thing each man, woman and child should do is find a sound to suit – and sooth – their state of mind. So if you don’t know where to start – my pitch for this week is to check out the album “Return To The Moon” and go from there. It’s as Berninger sings in ‘No Time To Crank The Sun':
“I always knew there was
They said no one could ever get me
To sit and listen”
Maybe he just didn’t have the right soundtrack. I hope this helps you find yours.