Nearly two decades and over 10 albums into its career, Athens-based indie-rock group Elf Power has amassed a remarkably consistent yet no less ambitious catalog of music. Quieter and less precious than fellow Elephant 6 colleagues, like The Apples in Stereo and of Montreal, the band has honed its own brand of warm, mellow psychedelic pop.
The group's newest album, Sunlight on the Moon, deviates little from the Elves' tried-and-true style. The simple, lo-fi beats, lush sonic textures and surreal, sometimes twisted lyrical imagery all make it distinctly an Elf Power album, and singer/guitarist Andrew Rieger’s songwriting is as sharp as ever, packed with memorable hooks and dressed with taut yet spacious arrangements. The undercurrent of electronic beats that pepper Sunlight serve as the only true sign that it was released in 2013; the songs themselves have far more in common with the supremely melodic pop of the ’60s than most contemporary indie music.
What Sunlight on the Moon most clearly reveals, however, is that Elf Power has a serious knack for covering substantial musical terrain while seeming to do so little. The tracks themselves fly by at breakneck speed, sometimes ending so abruptly that they feel like sketches, while Rieger’s hazy vocal delivery neither rises nor falls in intensity.
It’s a testament to Elf Power’s status as a veteran group that the record still rewards intensive listening, despite never demanding it. The hypnotic, Eastern-tinged “Darkest Wave” stands as the album’s most obvious highlight, but the gorgeous “Transparent Lines,” the edgy propulsion of “Total Annihilation,” the darkly soaring “Grotesquely Born Anew” and the fuzzy, drifting textures of “Strange Designs” are all cuts that not only hold up with repeated listens but become stronger. Underneath its subdued surface, Sunlight on the Moon shows itself to be an album rich with melodies and emotion. 4 out of 5.
Elf Power plays the 40 Watt Club Tuesday, Oct. 22 and Saturday, Nov. 16.