On their sophomore album, Hoodwink’d (one of 2014’s best), LVL UP practiced in shaky self-delusions and disaffected romanticism, doled out in quick and scratchy bursts of frenetic energy. Last year’s Three Songs EP saw them pushing subtle progressions to their formula, opening up in parts (“Proven Water Rites”) while tensing up in others (“Blur”). Their undeniable skill at crafting foreboding atmospherics paired with indelible hooks attracted the attention of esteemed label Sub Pop, who are putting out the Brooklyn-based band’s next album. It’s called Return To Love and is being released in the fall, and it’s the group’s most ambitious work to date.
Case in point: “Pain,” the album’s lead single, is longer than anything the band has ever put out, clocking in at five-and-a-half-minutes. The four-piece uses that time wisely, building up to one of the best payoffs I’ve heard all year. The track, written and sung by the band’s Mike Caridi (who also puts in time solo as the Glow), is about wanting to hurt the person who hurt the person you love. The narrative details are purposefully painted in broad strokes so you can fill in the blanks as you wish, but the song swirls with a heated anger over something that’s out of his control.
“Your innocence was taken from you/ Behind closed doors/ By one you trusted,” he sings. He hopes that they’re dealing with that trauma on their own terms, but it’s something that can never be known for sure — “Will you forget or will you repress the demons run rampant in your head?” he asks. Those unknowables are bolstered by powerful words of encouragement — “We’ll stay with you until the end” — and frightening displays of fury: “I want to hurt him/ Winter glow silence surrounding/ I’ll watch from my window/ Painting reveries of his pain.”
When there’s something in someone’s past that will always haunt them, often the best thing you can do is just act as a constant source of support and understanding. You can also wish the harm-doer the worst, which is where the chilling and darkly anthemic climax comes in: “I hope you’re cold/ I hope you grow old/ And never find love.” It’s a powerless, ineffectual wish, but it’s the only move you’ve got. Oh, and you can twist that sentiment into a razor-sharp rock song, one that will make them feel guilty as all hell if they ever happen to hear it. Listen below.
01 “Hidden Driver”
03 “She Sustains Us”
04 “Spirit Was”
06 “The Closing Door”
07 “Five Men On The Ridge”
08 “Cut From The Vine”
10 “Naked In The River With The Creator”