4AD is perhaps the perfect home for EL VY's debut album Return To The Moon, it's somewhat of an oddity as a collaboration between two established artists that seems to fit into the tradition and aesthetic of the revered record label. The National's Matt Berninger and Portland musician Brent Knopf have crafted something that's a departure, if not a radical one, from their usual output. That Return To The Moon doesn't quite deliver on the promise of the title track and first single is perhaps a flaw, but certainly not a fatal one. There's certainly enough interest to carry you through the 11 songs presented here.
That many of the initial ideas were traded between the duo at great distances over a long period as their friendship developed, places this into similar territory as The Postal Service's Give Up. The similarity between both records doesn't end there though, both avoid the many pitfalls of their detached genesis, and critically both don't push the boat too far from what you'd expect from these artists. On first inspection the title track sheds new light on Berninger's wry sense of humour coupling his baritone delivery with an unusually upbeat and breezy pop melody. If the whole record was as infectious as this, with lyrics as quirky as the opening line ("Scratched a ticket with the leg of a cricket and I got triple Jesus"), it would perhaps have been a more successful enterprise. That it descends into a darkly comic cast of characters as stark as the alien looking black and white album cover is hardly surprising and faintly predictable.
It's the second track 'I'm The Man To Be' that sets the highest bar in terms of ambition here. Berninger broadens his vocal range with a semi-falsetto performance while Knopf builds a tapestry of drums, funky guitars, and sound effects around the suicidal protagonist during his last minutes as he hangs "like a rag doll from the door". It's the opposite end of the spectrum from the opening cut, but demonstrates an inventiveness that isn't surpassed during subsequent songs. Berninger's choice of subject matter may seem rather stark, but Knopf's fever dream composition is so compelling that it captures the imagination.
Continue reading: EL VY - Return To The Moon Album Review
With a loose, rambling style, this documentary starts as a backstage glimpse of a rock tour before shifting into an exploration of brotherhood and finally into something much more self-reflective. It's a hybrid of comedy and emotion that gets under the skin even if the movie's central figure, director Tom Berninger, is both charming and deeply annoying.
As the film starts, Tom gets a job as a roadie for his older brother Matt's band The National, which is enjoying its first wave of success by staging a world tour across Europe and North America. Since Matt's bandmates are two pairs of brother (Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf), Tom feels like he completes the set. As a filmmaker, Tom has made a few cheesy horror movies, and now wants to make a rock-tour doc about his experience. In the process, he hopes to bond with Matt, because their large age difference means that they've never had much time to get to know each other. But it's quickly apparent that Tom doesn't have much in common with Matt, most notably because he's a heavy metal fan who doesn't really like The National's music.
Essentially, Tom is a Zach Galifianakis-like slacker who never takes any of his work seriously and seems like he would be exhausting to be around for more than a few minutes at a time. His lack of effort in his job seriously annoys the band's manager Brandon Reid, and the film Tom is making feels so unplanned that it meanders all over the place. But this allows him to find all kinds of natural humour in the situations, including some in which he's clowning around for his unseen camera crew. Several scenes are reminiscent of Spinal Tap, as Tom's goofy interview style makes the bandmates wonder if they should try to answer the questions or just break down laughing. And along with this endearing silliness, the film also captures some strikingly telling scenes that highlight the sibling relationship between Tom and Matt.
Continue reading: Mistaken For Strangers Review
Watch the trailer below
‘Mistaken For Strangers’ is a documentary focussing on the brotherly relationship between renowned rock star Matt Berninger and his metal head brother Tom, who – according to the doc – is a bit of a layabout. When Matt offers his brother a job as a roadie on the band’s European tour, he didn’t realise Tom had designs on filming the whole thing.
So hilarity, tears, realisations and revelations soon followed as both Matt and Tom learn about each other on this – cliché warning – journey of discovery. Mistaken for Strangers has already been uttered in the same sentence as Spinal Tap a few times, so you really don’t need to take our work for it.
Brooklyn-based indie rockers The National quickly rose to fame in 2010 with the release of 'High Violet'; their fifth studio album and their first release with 4AD records which shot to number three on the US Billboard 200 chart. Three years later they unveiled 'Trouble Will Find Me' which also peaked at number three and they have been selling out shows all around the world. The band are seen as a band of brothers, with guitarist siblings Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner, and bassist Scott Devendorf and drummer Bryan Devendorf. Singer Matt Berninger's brother has largely been left out of the spotlight - until now. 2010 saw them truly reach live stardom with their major US, UK and Europe tour which was largely sold out, and to make life on the road a little more interesting, Matt invited his metalhead brother Tom along for the ride - equipped, of course, with his trusty video camera.
'Mistaken For Strangers' is the result; a documentary directed by Tom Berninger in his filmmaking debut and full to bursting with interviews full of nonsensical questions, brotherly tension and self-discovery for our documentary-maker whose ambitions were initially doubted by his family. It's an emotional journey that earned Tom a nomination for a Free Spirit Award at the Warsaw International Film Festival. The movie is set to hit UK cinemas on June 27th 2014.