By: JENNIFER KELLY
Sunlight on the Moon is Elf Power’s 12th full-length, and while it still sounds exuberantly, defiantly amateur (in the best, “for the love of it” sense), the band has clearly gotten better at what it does. These fuzz-toned, delicately arranged melodies curve in a gratifying ways around bizarrely evocative imagery. They are well-constructed, tightly knit songs that fizz with eccentricity and bubble with subconscious impulses. “Even in the dreamworld, you will not comply with my commands,” sings Andrew Rieger on the mesmeric “Strange Designs”, and you do get a sense of dreams that permeate the music, infiltrate it, co-opt it, and refuse to cede to the real world.
Elf Power filters disconcerting imagery through the sunny lens of lo-fi pop. Standout “Lift the shell,” drives hard with its fuzz-guitar riff and punchy drums, but it also makes room for sound-engineered fuckery and wistful, pastel-toned weirdness. “Total Annihilation” is another oddball winner, all jangle and 1960s tambourine slaps and tight harmonies, until a fuzz guitar solo rips through the middle. Low murmuring harmonies recall the mid-period work of the most famous of all Athens bands, but R.E.M. never ventured this far into cracked and not-entirely-positive mysticism. The disconnect between sunny sounds and darker lyrical content is striking in a song whose big melodic pay-off is hitched to the line, “create these illusions of fate, and crawl back down under the weight.”
Sunlight on the Moon is utterly pleasant, slightly off-kilter and melodically memorable, but if you listen to it hard enough, it’s also a bit disturbing. You can ride these tunes to garage rock euphoria, buoyed by thermal currents of sun-warmed pop, brushed by tuneful light-and-shadows breezes. Don’t look down, though, because things are dark, weirder and more dangerous than you’d expect.
DOWNLOAD: “Lift the Shell” “Total Annihilation”