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LVL UP: Return to Love [Slipcase] *

Track List

>Hidden Driver
>She Sustains Us
>Spirit Was
>Closing Door, The
>Five Men on the Ridge
>Cut From the Vine
>Naked in the River With the Creator

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "RETURN TO LOVE is a real head-spinning breakthrough -- full of scruffily dazed romanticism, weirdly pastoral even though there's plenty of urban grime in their fuzz pedals."

Album Notes

Personnel: Nick Corbo (guitar, piano, organ, percussion); Mike Caridi (guitar, piano, percussion); Dave Benton (guitar, synthesizer, percussion, tapes); Greg Rutkin (guitar, drums, percussion, gong).

Audio Mixers: LVL UP; Mike Pitrio.

Recording information: Seaside Lounge; The Bethlehem Cottage.

After two albums that established them as pretty solid practitioners of indie rock done straight '90s style, LVL UP made the big jump to Sub Pop for their third record, Return to Love. To be on the same label as Eric's Trip must be a good feeling for the New York foursome. They also could have been on early-'90s-era Matador due to their debt to Pavement, Up Records because of their similarities to Built to Spill, or really any label that liked to release fuzzy, home-cooked albums by scruffy college-aged kids who were able to balance a love of noise and melody. LVL UP certainly do that very well. The album is made up of songs that blend the two elements like PB and J, matching overloaded bass riffs with bubbly organs, clanging guitars with Elliott Smith-y vocal harmonies, and hooky melodies with chugging bummer rockers. They don't merely plunder the past and spit it back out verbatim; there's enough going on here to keep them from merely being grave robbers. Could it be more original in certain places? Of course it could. There are enough moments of "hey, I recognize that guitar line" or "gee, the singer loves Malkmus, doesn't he?" to be distracting. On the other hand, there are more than enough quality songs that have real emotional impact ("Spirit Was"), big fat hooks ("Blur," "I"), massive guitar sounds ("The Closing Door"), and comforting melancholy ("Five Men on the Ridge") to help get the band past the originality gap. The longer LVL UP stick around and work on developing their own sound, the better chance they have for making a really great record. For now, Return to Love is a fun and occasionally moving throwback, filled with nicely catchy songs, familiar sounds, and the overwhelming sense that the band's love of the '90s is being transmitted directly to the listener minus any irony and/or distance. Not many other bands mining this same stretch in 2016 can claim LVL UP's high levels of purity and devotion, and for that they get tons of credit. ~ Tim Sendra


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