LVL UP (I assume it's meant to be Level Up as in LVL 42) are a bunch of slacker guitar slingers in thrall to the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie but with a tough melodic pop/rock sound that comes in somewhere betwixt Pavement and early Death Cab. They've already released a bunch of tapes but this Sub Pop debut could see them become the new emotional lo-fi guitar slingers.
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- SP1166X / Limited indies only lilac coloured vinyl 'Loser Edition' LP on Sub Pop
- Includes download code
7/10 Robin Staff review, 22 September 2016
As you like it, Sub Poppers: this record has so many indie rock comparison points it feels like a total mutation of the genre, shredding through the chilly pop-punk of the Thermals into the distorted folk lewdness of Neutral Milk Hotel, borrowing the nasal narratives of the Mountain Goats and giving a bit of Car Seat Headrest’s synth-glistened gnarl a go. ‘Return to Love’ is basically a nice record of slight songwriter juxtapositions, using a warm coat of fuzz to make delicate lil’ anthems.
It might sound like one dude’s melancholy vanity project after “Hidden Driver”, which is the most Neutral Milk Hotel moment on offer (a real gruesome strum-along with homaging vocal inflections), but this record unfolds to reveal a band of people having fun. Yes, fun: characterised by riffs and solos and lots of things happening. “Blur” goes full on pop-punk, borrowing the kinda psyched-to-fuck guitar licks of Tony Molina; “She Sustains Us” opens on a irreverent vocal sample before the band mumble through muted bass distortion and the occasional lilting riff; the whole thing has the noisemade sleepiness of a good Happyness song, peaking on a shut-door vocal harmony.
As the record goes on, it does lay down a couple of cruise-control nothings -- “Pain” doesn’t do much for me, its verses apathetic towards and disconnected from their guitar showboats and bridging progressions. That said, there’s something charming about the vast majority of these songs, and the way they turn big music into awkward, fast-talking reality: “The Closing Door” actually has the tone of a big fucking rock song underneath it, but it’s given the LVL UP treatment of fuzz and mutter to sound like a confrontational song struggling to make eye contact. Let’s relate.
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