For those of you who were handed In the Aeroplane Over the Sea during your high school or college years, you've probably heard of Elf Power. Neutral Milk Hotel was always a mystery to me, and that's why that album was so memorable and enjoyable. Although, I'm young and wasn't given that CD until about five years after it came out. But those of us who couldn't stand back and ignore the desire to want to learn more about this mysterious band, researched and found out about Elephant 6. The Elephant 6 Recording Company collective was a group of like-minded, lo-fi indie groups.
Emerging from this collective were two of my favorite bands of all time, Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. (You can imagine how excited I was to see Jeff Magnum join OTC on stage at the Bowery this summer). Elf Power emerged from Athens, GA, and was part of the second wave of Elephant 6 bands.
My favorite Elf Power album was 1999's A Dream in Sound and I think that most Elf Power fans will agree that their latest, Back To The Web, is their best album since. John Fernandes of Olivia Tremor Control joins the band to play violin and clarinet, and Josh Lott comes in as the band's new drummer. The album has a very distinct sound, which I can only describe as lo-fi renaissance pop. The acoustic guitars, cello, heavily reverbed vocals, and dreamy narrative lyrics keep Elf Power in the same territory as we've known them in the past, but the sound of Back To The Web is by no means a carbon copy of anything previously put out by the lo-fi Elephant 6 heroes.
I must admit, as I write this, New York has turned into a 70 degree haven of smiling faces, short sleeve shirts, and people who suddenly don't seem that upset to have to be at work. The infectious pop of "Peel Back The Moon, Beware" seems to be the perfect theme song for one of the first spring days. "The whole entire world was in your eyes," is one of the first lines of the song. After a line like that on a day like this, you can't help but sit down and glue yourself to your seat as three minutes and three seconds of pure pop bliss pass by effortlessly through your headphones.
What follows, "23rd Dream," is an Elf Power ode to The Grateful Dead. It's not a 23-minute jam on one note, but rather a play on one of the many Dead classics, "Scarlet Begonias." The melodies are extremely similar, but the Elf Power version decides to slow down the classic and turn it into a beautiful epic ballad. I might get chastised for saying this, but I'm a huge Grateful Dead fan, and whenever an indie rock band like Elf Power makes any nod to enjoying a band that so many people love to hate, it gives them instant credibility in my mind.
If you're an Elf Power fan, you're going to love this album. If you're not an Elf Power fan or haven't heard the band yet, you're going to love this album. It's instantly likeable, all the way to the last song, "Back to the Web," in which the band decides to go for an Eastern sounding pop song. And if you haven't heard of Elephant 6 before, go out and buy these albums. They're all a must have. Ok, enjoy. No more Grateful Dead references. I promise.