LVL UP – Pain (Stream, Live Video)

by Steven Spoerl


Over the course of the day, a whole host of great material has found its way out into the greater world. Included in this wealth of worthy new releases included streams from Steve Adamyk Band, Slow Down Molasses, Happy Diving, Buildings, Beach Slang, PJ Harvey, Flock of DimesItsaca, The Holy CircleBodies Be Rivers, The Moles, and a Littler cover of a Muffs classic with all of the proceeds of the cover going to Campaign Zero. Additionally, there were exceptional full streams from the following: Gay Sin, Heliotropes, Blue Smiley, and Pure Disgust. Finally, the music video format saw excellent new entries from the likes of Sneeze, Honeyblood, Sleeping Beauties, and Hinds.

Really, though, ever since Sub Pop’s announcement of their newest acquisition, this day has all but belonged to LVL UP. The band’s been working on their full-length follow-up to Hoodwink’d — this site’s pick for 2014’s Album of the Year — steadily for well over a year. Today, they unveiled the first track to be heard from that record, which will be titled Return to Love, with the perpetually shifting “Pain”.

Easily one of the finest songs Mike Caridi has contributed to the band to date (which is no mean feat), “Pain” is simultaneously one of the band’s most ambitious and arresting songs, demonstrating the breadth of their expanded scope in one fell swoop. Opening with a melancholic ambient swirl, “Pain” quickly ups the tempo and quickly begins presenting scathing, intimate questions like “where is the one who loved you, unconditionally?” and never lets down the intensity for a moment.

Ultimately, the song settles into the self-defeating mantra of “Never Find Love” before a volcanic eruption of feedback, distortion, and noise subsumes the song and quickly transforms it into a seething maelstrom of formidable power, reaching a level of darkness of which their most recent release — the excellent Three Songs EP — hinted towards. The quartet really lays into that final section during their sets (“Pain” has been a live staple for some time) and tap into some intangible quality that seems to elevate them as a unit, locking into some sort of terrifying trance and playing off of each other with startling precision.

“Pain”, likely more than most of their recent songs, pays homage to the band’s past while remaining determined to look towards the future. In striking that balance, LVL UP has managed to produce a song that does more than justify their Sub Pop signing, set up Return to Love‘s release, and remind people of why they came to be such a force. It becomes a transportive experience that nears moments of transcendence.  Should the rest of Return to Love live up to the standard set by its first single, the band may find themselves following up a miniature masterpiece (Hoodwink’d) with the real thing.

Listen to “Pain” below (and watch a slightly blown-out video of the band running through an earlier version of the song last year at Palisades below the embed) and pre-order Return to Love from Sub Pop here.