Record Radar: Return to the Moon v. Dealer

MOVE columnist Kennedy Simone reviews new releases from EL VY and Foxing.

By Kennedy Simone | Nov. 17, 2015

Tags: Music

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“I keep feeling smaller and smaller/I need my girl.”

Those are the lyrics to “I Need My Girl” by The National. The first time I realized that song had an indubitable spot on my list of favorite songs was almost a year ago. Laying on the floor in the basement piano room of Hatch Hall at 1 a.m. with my friends and some random girl playing the theme song to The Office, I knew that song had significant meaning to me that I couldn’t (and still don’t) quite understand.

Matt Berninger, lead singer of alt-rock band The National, has a velvety voice that embodies an introspective melancholy. Having teamed up with Ramona Falls/Menomena member Brent Knopf to create the new collaborative project EL VY, the duo’s new album “Return to the Moon” falls flat of otherworldly expectations.

If you’re a fan of The National, don’t expect “Return to the Moon” to be a continuum of “Trouble Will Find Me.” I discovered that early on, following my first listen to “Happiness, Missouri.” With a heavy Southern gothic rock sound, this song is as gutsy as it is ad nauseum. EL VY’s sound is unoriginal yet still bearable, a quality of everything currently being played on mainstream radio. Whether that’s a pro or a con is left up to your own judgement.

Fortunately, the hackneyed sound isn’t consistent throughout the album. “Careless” brings forth a sound much more heartfelt and spirited, reflecting work already done by The National. It’s obvious that newborn EL VY is struggling to brand a trademark sound of its own. The problem with this album is that it feels like a step back from Berninger’s previous work. “Return to the Moon” is abysmal at best.

Despite EL VY’s letdown, originality in alt-rock still exists. In a world where many alt-rock albums sound like reworks of “Sea of Cowards” by The Dead Weather and “Only by the Night” by Kings of Leon, “Dealer” by St. Louis band Foxing is a shining beacon of hope.

I can hardly ever sit through an instrumental track beyond the ranges of electronic music, so listening to “Winding Cloth” and actually enjoying it was a pleasant surprise. Sans vocals, the song is beautifully dramatic and touching. Led only by piano keys and strings, the track is evidence that this band doesn’t have to say a single word to evoke real emotion. That in itself is a rarity.

The major upside of this album is its ability to connect with the listener. “Three On A Match ” encompasses agony and regret with ease. It’s almost as if creating a track this fluid is child’s play to Foxing.

The downside of this album is minor. While listening to each track, one can only experience one of two types of sound: quiet and emotional or quiet and emotional with a stentorian ending. Every climax is expected, making the album sleep-inducing if the mood isn’t right. However, if your current tastes call for desolated indie rock, “Dealer” is the creme de la creme.

For this week’s Record Radar, “Dealer” is the unequivocal winner. It makes up for everything that “Return to the Moon” isn’t. With raw heart and the ability to capture a distinctly hushed delivery, “Dealer” is clearly not an attempt by Foxing to achieve mainstream popularity or even to be likeable. It just is. This is auditory art done well.

Bonus Play

Artist: Grimes Song: Flesh without Blood

As a longtime fan of Grimes, I can honestly say that this song marks the first time I could understand a single thing Grimes has said beyond a 10 second duration. If you haven’t listened to Grimes before, the best way I can describe Grimes’ vocal style is that of a small child who only chooses to speak in Simlish out of rebellion. However, Grimes is an artist worth listening to because of the true artist’s atmosphere her music creates, not because of the lyrics. A transition from her deeply ethereal electropop, “Flesh Without Blood” is much more easily identified as pop, but with the same weird signature sound Grimes fans know and love.

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