When the National lead singer Matt Berninger and Menomena instrumentalist Brent Knopf announced their collaboration under the name EL VY, my colleague Forrest Wickman speculated that the project was an outlet for Berninger’s lighter side. EL VY’s first two singles certainly corroborated that theory, with cheerful arrangements and silly lyrics like “I’m peaceful ’cause my dick’s in sunlight.” But EL VY isn’t just a medium for dumb jokes. The duo has shared a third track from the forthcoming Return to the Moon, “Paul Is Alive,” with lyrics that touch on childhood, mortality, and regret.
“Paul Is Alive” may be less irreverent than EL VY’s first two singles, but there’s enough musical variation to keep it from getting bogged down in its own seriousness. In addition to guitar and piano, Knopf incorporates synthesizer swoops evocative of the hook from Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and sparingly used choral backing that remind me of mid-career Leonard Cohen. In the same visual style as the other two videos EL VY has released, the “Paul Is Alive” lyric video features black-and-white footage of Berninger and Knopf hanging out around an outdoor fireplace with their laptops, dipping into the waves of the ocean, and sending a balloon shaped like the letters of “EL VY” into the night sky.