Of the frontline bands associated with the mid-'90s Elephant 6 collective—a loose conglomeration of '60s-leaning, experimental pop obsessives—Elf Power didn't seem the most likely to stick around the longest. The Apples In Stereo had the hooks, Neutral Milk Hotel had the transcendent vision, and Olivia Tremor Control had the willingness to try anything. On the other hand, Elf Power had the ability to combine elements of each into cute little packages awash in Tolkien-esque imagery. And yet, a decade later, Elf Power is the band putting out album number eight, Back To The Web, while its peers have all entered dormant periods or disappeared.
Time hasn't stood still for Elf Power, either. Holding the reins through several lineup shifts, leader Andrew Rieger has arrived at a sound that's shed some of the outré touches without losing its edge. Tracks like "All The World Is Waiting" hearken back to the thrift-store psychedelic chug of A Dream In Sound, but the sweet, straightforward, slightly awestruck album-opener "Come Lie Down With Me (And Sing My Song)" best indicates where Elf Power's heart is these days. Rieger surrounds images from nature and recalled dreams with compact, layered folk-pop songs that mingle joy and fear in equal measure. (Can an Iron & Wine collaboration be far behind?) It might not have been immediately obvious to anyone but Rieger that Elf Power could still be making relevant music a decade after its debut, but on Back To The Web, he proves the band's ability to thrive with age.