Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: DDW Dog

Mitski – iPhone Voice Memo 10/4/14 (Stream)

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Today was a day that seemed to be defined by a quiet nature, something that was born out of the still fall weather and a severe lack of noteworthy releases (especially considering the steady overabundance of material throughout the past two weeks). Sure, there were premieres of things like Dirt Dress’ “Revelations“, Low Culture’s “Reservations“, and Young Mammals’ Alto Seco that were egregiously overlooked over the course of the past few days that could have easily earned a feature spot today- but nothing felt as appropriate as Mitski‘s demo.

Quietly released on tumblr (and currently without an official title), the song’s an embodiment of the DIY aesthetic that Heartbreaking Bravery was designed to showcase. Self-recorded onto an iPhone as a voice memo, it strips Mitski’s music- something that’s becoming increasingly production-friendly- back to barebones, completely opening up a brave vulnerability that brings the act of listening to the song uncomfortably close to voyeurism. Unsurprisingly, the song itself is absolutely stunning and continues to add new depths to Mitski’s undeniable talent. Haunting, compelling, and melancholic in equal measure, the song’s a window into the songwriting process of one of today’s most fascinating emerging artists and pushes the anticipation for the upcoming Bury Me At Makeout Creek to absurd heights (despite the fact it won’t be included on the record). Most importantly, it’s a stunning song that deserves the attention of as many listeners as possible.

Listen to the song below and pre-order Bury Me At Makeout Creek from Double Double Whammy here. For those interested in hearing more of Mitski in solo acoustic mode, watch the video below the embed of a recent solo set at Dong Island (courtesy of Dong Island).

LVL UP – Hoodwink’d (Album Review, Stream)

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Ever since LVL UP let “Soft Power” loose on the world, it was clear that they were operating on another level entirely; a really good band achieving greatness. The three songs that followed- “I Feel Ok“, “DBTS“, and “Ski Vacation“, respectively- all continued to enhance the expanding promise of Hoodwink’d, the record they were previewing. Each of the four songs had a very distinct style, lending some additional credence to the individual members’ stylistic tendencies towards creating songs that work perfectly as standalone numbers but function best as a complementary package. To that end, it’s probably not surprising that Hoodwink’d feels like a career best-of retrospective, despite the fact it’s only the band’s second full-length.

When LVL UP started, their approach was to simply write good, short pop songs. It was a winsome trait that helped establish them as New York’s finest purveyors of outsider pop- and defined Step Brothers, their outstanding introductory effort. While Hoodwink’d still operates in similar territory (the title track is 39 seconds, after all), their sonic palette is broadened considerably and allows for a step up from the band’s previously lo-fi production tactics, which winds up providing the band with a greater sense of urgency. Frequently droll (and fiercely witty) lyrics collide with a sharp immediacy and a murderer’s row of spectacular melodies in just about every one of Hoodwink’d‘s 15 songs, simultaneously one of 2014’s most diverse and unified non-compilation records.

From the drum shuffle that kicks everything off in “Angel From Space” to the fuzz-heavy feedback that draws the whole thing to its close, LVL UP inject Hoodwink’d with the sort of brazen confidence that usually suggests a band operating at the height of their powers. Throw in a sense of subtle ennui (usually manifested in the vocal performances), a seriously impressive slew of impassioned arrangements, and a staggering amount of personality and Hoodwink’d becomes even more compelling. Importantly, it should heavily resonate with a few of this generation’s subsets by virtue of being an astonishingly accurate presentation of the aspects by which they’re generally defined. All of that is circumstantial, though, and would never have come into play if it weren’t for one inescapable fact: this is an astoundingly great record.

Virtually every aspect of the band’s early promise is capitalized on in thrilling fashion, with each member consistently turning in career-best performances all throughout Hoodwink’d. These are songs that feel completely of-the-moment but have a sense of an indefinable timelessness, hinting that this may be a record with the kind of longevity most bands spend entire careers trying to produce. Whether it’s the fractured basement pop of “I Feel Extra-Natural” (which is one of several songs to feature auxiliary vocal work from Elaiza Santos), the relatively downtrodden “Hex“, or the unease-and-resolve back-and-forth of “Medication“, none of the material on display feels even remotely esoteric. Moreover, LVL UP seem to have pinpointed a new propensity for absurdly engaging material that also heavily rewards investment. All of which is just to simply state, once again (and this can’t be emphasized enough), this is an astoundingly great record

From song-to-song, there are no weak links to be found. It’s a masterpiece in miniature, something that perfectly reflects the punk-leaning micro-pop songs that are responsible for the bulk of the record. Everything that LVL UP put into Hoodwink’d seems to serve several purposes with an unfailing consistency. Even examining the aspects of the record that most cast off as unimportant, like sequencing and mastering, it’s difficult to find any glaring flaws. Sure, the brand of music the band traffics in will probably always fall into critical acclaim more easily than commercial success but that’s frequently the price of artistic integrity- something LVL UP has in spades. Ultimately, what LVL UP have wound up with isn’t just a career-making exclamation point, it’s a record that may very well wind up being viewed as one of 2014’s most definitive entries into today’s constantly shifting musical landscape- and it’s an absolute stunner.

Listen to Hoodwink’d below and order it from one of today’s best labels, Double Double Whammy (who teamed up with Exploding in Sound for this release), here.

LVL UP – Ski Vacation (Stream)

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It’s been an insane past few days. Full streams, videos, and songs worth writing about have been emerging at a breakneck pace and making deciding what to feature a near-herculean task of decisiveness. There was a monumentally important music video from Mean Creek‘s Chris Keene for his upcoming solo record as Dream Generation, an interactive piece of unbridled fun from Ty Segall for the title track off of Manipulator, characteristically cinematic videos from both Beverly and Fucked Up– who have each been doing wonders with the visual medium, a video that practically defines Bob Mould’s workmanlike nature, and a Jane Forsyth & Ian Pollard-helmed video for Parquet Courts’ “Bodies Made Of“- which proved to be an astoundingly sensible creative pairing. There were full streams of the gently gnarled She Keeps Bees full-length, the psych-trip of the White Fence and Jack Name split, and a new Greylag song, “Yours to Shake“, that showed some serious teeth. Picking between all of those seemed as if it might be impossible until, once again, LVL UP made the decision fairly easy.

At this point, noting that LVL UP’s upcoming Hoodwink’d is this site’s front-runner for Album of the Year seems redundant. It’s a 15-song masterpiece that sees the band perfecting their best aspects and surpassing an arsenal of lofty expectations in the process. This is something that this site’s touched on in reviews for the first three songs to be teased from the record: “Soft Power“, “I Feel Ok“, and “DBTS“. Now, the band’s released the fourth look at the now-imminent Hoodwink’d with “Ski Vacation” which shows the band expanding their sonic palette yet again. Boasting a tranquil atmosphere and no shortage of jangly guitar tones, the song integrates some subtle-yet-effective surf tendencies into the band’s outsider pop aesthetic- and the end result is spectacular. What jumps out about all of the songs that the band’s been previewing is that they stand on their own extraordinarily well and would warrant serious consideration for pushes as Hoodwink’d singles- but as a collective piece they’re extraordinary and complement each other better than just about anything that even bothers to casually flirt with genre-hopping tendencies. In that respect, Hoodwink’d might be the first record 2014 produces that would be deserving of a title no smaller than masterpiece. “Ski Vacation” is just the fourth of 15 dimensions.

For some essential reading on Hoodwink’d, please go to Sasha Geffen’s Interview piece– where the track premiered- to scroll through a can’t-miss interview that sheds some light on what went into making the record.

Stream “Ski Vacation” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d from Double Double Whammy (which has played host to several of 2014’s best releases and is in the midst of an absurd winning streak)- who will be co-releasing it with Exploding in Sound (see: last parenthesis)-  here.

All Dogs at Bremen Cafe – 8/19/14 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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[AUTHOR’S NOTE: First off, just to get this out of the way at the top, this post probably would not have been possible without The Media, a site whose praises deserve to be sung as loudly- and frequently- as possible. Being able to be a part of that place, even just for an issue, was an honor. The fact that I got to spotlight was All Dogs, a band that put out a 7″ last year that I felt very strongly about, ensured that it won’t be an experience I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. All that said, I wound up with an over-abundance of content that, for obvious reasons, couldn’t all be worked into The Media piece. It’d be criminal to let a lot of the material that didn’t run go to waste, so it’ll be running here today. Enjoy.]

All Dogs put out one of this site’s favorite 7″ records of last year, so when word came that they’d be stopping at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, not going wasn’t an option. As time progressed and more things got worked out, excitement and anticipation for the show grew incrementally. After the band agreed to an interview (hyperlinked towards the end of the Author’s Note) and guitarist/vocalist Maryn Jones was gracious enough to agree to a small set of acoustic performances, All Dogs’ self-titled 7″ was back to being in near-constant rotation- and wound up being the go-to soundtrack for every editing session this site went through for a few weeks.

During that time, a press email came out detailing an upcoming release from a project called Yowler, which turned out to be a solo vehicle for Jones- and a likely continuation of her excellent early solo material. Somehow, this all came to light during a time that also saw the emergence of Saintseneca’s Tiny Desk Session for NPR (easily one of this year’s finest offerings), all of which pointing to Jones being one of the busiest- and best- songwriters/musicians that we currently have. All of that combined prompted a trip through her discography, which included some absolute gems like the tape from the now-defunct Wolfs (which All Dogs’ bassist, Ama,nda Bartley was also in). As a result of the culmination of all of this, expectations couldn’t have possibly been higher for the band’s live show.

After taking up temporary residence in Ground Zero (one of Milwaukee’s best basement venues) for the interview session, it was into the band’s van and off to Bremen Cafe. While there wasn’t too much time to spend doing anything other than helping clear out space and running out to get food before the show kicked off, it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits and a lot of old friends were able to exchange a few words before the show kicked off with a ferocious set from Failed Mutation– who proved to be next to impossible to photograph thanks to their incessant levels of energy. From their live show alone, it wasn’t very difficult to see why they’ve earned a reputation as being one of Milwaukee’s best hardcore bands in an increasingly over-crowded scene (it also probably doesn’t hurt to have members of Tenement and Holy Shit! in your band). Failed Mutation wound up packing an absurd amount of spastic energy into a set that probably only ran 15 minutes, all of which was expertly controlled- likely thanks to each individual members discipline and experience. It was a hell of a way to jump-start what would prove to be a surprisingly formidable bill.

Next up was Sin Bad, a relatively new band that features members of both Night Animals and Rich People. Having never heard Sin Bad, it was difficult to gauge whether trepidation or excitement was winning out as Failed Mutation loaded out. Any notions of disappointment were immediately dispelled following the first few seconds of their first song. Boasting a sound not too dissimilar from All Dogs (with maybe just a few dashes more of a sound found pretty frequently on Don Giovanni Records) and an energy that was relatively comparable to Failed Mutation meant their second slot was a perfect transition between the opener and the headliner, while also simultaneously allowing them a more unfettered interest from the sizable and appreciative crowd. By the time Sin Bad’s set was over, it was very clear they’d left an impression and made converts out of several of the previously unaware.

When Sin Bad had packed up and left the stage open for All Dogs, a strange nervousness crept back in- as it usually does prior to seeing a band (especially for the first time) that’s come to mean something on a personal level. Again, it didn’t take very long for that anxiety to abate. It took All Dogs (in a now-cemented four person lineup that includes NONA guitarist Nick Harris and, as always, Delay‘s Jesse Withers) less than three songs to inspire chills. Starting strongly with both “Farm” (from their outstanding split tape with Slouch) and the shortest song from the 7″, “Snow Fences”, they’d guaranteed the investment of everyone watching. Then on the third song, they offered up the first look at their new material, which they’d previously promised sounded like a much fuller and more fleshed-out version of themselves. Not only did that promise hold up, the expectations that came with it were annihilated as that song, currently written down on the setlist as “Skin”, showcased a heavier side of the band that had been previously been hinted at with their current career-best effort, “Say”.

From that point forward, the band tore through a set with a practiced confidence and relative ease, never once seeming anything less than completely genuine and extremely impassioned. Everything clicked, sounding fantastic in the notoriously loud Bremen Cafe. Making the performance even more memorable was the fact that the crowd was reciprocating virtually all of All Dogs’ energy, creating this back-and-forth that pushed both sides to near-perfect places. A few more songs from the split, the 7″, and (hopefully) the upcoming record, and the band had already nearly obliterated every lofty expectation- and then the band switched into high gear for an unforgettable 1-2 gut punch of an ending. That “Say” became the second song of their set to warrant chills and total immobility probably isn’t too surprising, as the studio version of the song is nearly capable of the same effect- but the band’s closing number, a song so recent that they still haven’t given it a title, went a long way in indicating that their upcoming work will be their best material to date. Both, combined, provided an unpredictably intense (even considering the members’ inability to contain their smiles) ending to an extraordinary set from a band who will almost certainly produce a discography of material worth owning on every possible format.

Below, watch a stunning solo acoustic performance of Wolfs’ “Leading Me Back to You” and All Dogs rip through their currently untitled set closer. A photo gallery of both the interview/performance session and the late show can be viewed beneath the videos.

Keep an eye out for all of the emerging details on All Dogs’ upcoming debut LP, which will be released on the always-extraordinary Salinas Records.

Songs of Summer: 2014 (Mixtape)

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Another hundred posts in and this site’s still humming along. As tradition dictates, today is one of the only days that doesn’t get dedicated to the outstanding just-released content (though there was an incredible amount, which will be covered tomorrow)- and features a digital mixtape instead. There was a lot of talk over what the song of the summer was and no real general consensus in any type of forum. In the spirit of that surprisingly diverse conversation, the mixtape features the songs that resonated throughout this place most strongly during what proved to be an incredibly memorable summer (covering both NXNE and Pitchfork festivals among the many highlights). As the season approaches its end, it only felt right to shine a light on some of those songs one more time before the year draws to a close.

A few of these have been featured in previous playlists but that should only stand as a testament to their longevity. While a few weren’t even released in summer, they definitely struck a deeper chord as the surroundings finally caught up to the mood they inhabited. Every single one of them can be streamed below (a tracklist is also provided) and, being that this marks another hundred posts- and in the event anyone was curious in catching something they missed, hyperlinks to posts No. 200-299 are given beneath the tracklist. So, turn the volume all the way up and enjoy some great music while the warm weather’s still here.

Stream Songs of Summer: 2014 below and feel free to navigate through any of the listed hyperlinks.

1. Lost Boy ? – Hollywood
2. LVL UP – Soft Power
3. Radiator Hospital – Cut Your Bangs
4. The Coasts – I Just Wanna Be A Star
5. The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More
6. Tweens – Forever
7. The Sleepwalkers – My Best Was Never Good Enough
8. Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03
9. The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout
10. Happyness – Anything I Do Is All Right
11. Dead Stars – Summer Bummer
12. Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar)
13. Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Sugarcubes Cover)
14. Eugene Quell – Hell Presidente
15. Happy Diving – Weird Dream
16. Mean Creek – My Madeline
17. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning
18. Left & Right – Low Expectations
19. Mulligrub – Canadian Classic
20. Dude York – Believer
21. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving
22. Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream
23. Wyatt Blair – Girls!
24. Jawbreaker Reunion – Empire
25. Reigning Sound – Falling Rain

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HB200: NXNE 2014: A Listener’s Guide (Mixtape)
HB201: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Calgary Hill (Music Video)
HB202: Swearin’ at Memorial Union Terrace – 5/30/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB203: Watch This: Vol. 27
HB204: Watch This: Vol. 28
HB205: Pretty Pretty – Leather Weather (Stream)
HB206: Haunted Heads – VV (Stream)
HB207: Marvelous Mark – Bite Me (Music Video)
HB208: Mean Creek – Anxiety Girl (Music Video)
HB209: Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Anymore (Music Video)
HB210: Parquet Courts – Black and White (Music Video)
HB211: Greys – Use Your Delusion (Music Video)
HB212: Beverly – Honey Do (Music Video)
HB213: Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club (Review)
HB214: Green Dreams – Rich Man Poor Man (Review)
HB215: Watch This: Vol. 29
HB216: Watch This: Vol. 30
HB217: La Sera – Fall in Place (Music Video)
HB218: Lemuria – Brilliant Dancer (Music Video)
HB219: The Midwestern Charm – Growing Pains (Trailer)
HB220: NXNE: Day 1 (Pictorial Review)
HB221: Watch This: Vol. 31
HB222: NXNE: Day 2 (Pictorial Review, Video)
HB223: NXNE Day 3: Greys, Benjamin Booker, Viet Coing (Photo Gallery)
HB224: NXNE Day 3: Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, Spoon (Photo Gallery)
HB225: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB226: NXNE Day 4: Creep Highway, Perfect Pussy, Frankie Cosmos, Swearin’ (Photo Gallery)
HB227: NXNE Day 5: Courtney Barnett, Army Girls (Photo Gallery)
HB228: Soybomb HQ: Cellphone, Ice Cream, Pleasure Leftists, Perfect Pussy (Photo Gallery)
HB229: Smiling Buddha: Pleasure Leftists, Holy Fuck, METZ (Photo Gallery)
HB230: NXNE: Day 3 (Review, Videos, Photos, Videos)
HB231: NXNE Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review, Photos)
HB232: NXNE Day 4 + 5 (Review, Photos)
HB233: Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Video)
HB234: METZ at Smiling Buddha – 6/22/14 (Review, Video)
HB235: Deafheaven at Bottom Lounge – 7/18/14 (Review, Photos)
HB236: Pitchfork Festival Day 2 (Review)
HB237: Pitchfork Festival Day 3 (Review)
HB238: Pitchfork Festival Day 3: Perfect Pussy (Review)
HB239: Watch This: Vol. 32
HB240: Watch This: Vol. 33
HB241: Watch This: Vol. 34
HB242: Watch This: Vol. 35
HB243: Watch This: Vol. 36
HB244: Watch This: Vol. 37
HB245: LVL UP – Soft Power (Stream)
HB246: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Warning (Stream)
HB247: Iceage – The Lord’s Favorite (Music Video)
HB248: Terry Malts – Let You In (Stream)
HB249: Dead Stars – Summer Bummer (Music Video)
HB250: Songs in Screen: A Look Back (Music Video Mixtape)
HB251: The Frankl Project – Day at the Races (Stream)
HB252: Cancers – Moral Net (Stream)
HB253: Watch This: Vol. 38
HB254: Mannequin Pussy – Kiss (Stream)
HB255: Vacation – Every Direction (Stream)
HB256: The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)
HB257: Dude York – Believer (Stream)
HB258: PURPLE 7 – Wise Up (Stream)
HB259: Lost Boy ? – Hollywood (Stream)
HB260: Mulligrub – Canadian Classic (Stream)
HB261: Purling Hiss – Learning Slowly (Stream)
HB262: Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell (Music Video)
HB263: Two Houses – Disappointer (Stream)
HB264: Cayetana – Scotty Get the Van, I’m Moving (Stream)
HB265: Shy Boys – Life Is Peachy (Music Video)
HB266: Low Expectations – Left & Right (Stream)
HB267: Sonic Avenues – Bored With Love (Stream)
HB268: Joanna Gruesome – Jerome (Liar) (Stream)
HB269: The Yolks – You Don’t Live Here No More (Stream)
HB270: Bent Shapes – 86’d in ’03 (Stream)
HB271: Watch This: Vol. 39
HB272: Ex-Breathers – Pocket (Stream)
HB273: Liam Betson – Rapture in Heat (Stream)
HB274: Allison Crutchfield – Berlin (Stream)
HB275: The Ar-Kaics – Be My Baby (Stream)
HB276: Even Hand – Even Hand (Album Review, Stream)
HB277: Naomi Punk – Firehose Face (Music Video)
HB278: Kindling – Sunspots (Stream)
HB279: Places to Hide – Nowhere Bound (Stream)
HB280: We Need Secrets – How You Remember (Stream)
HB281: LVL UP – I Feel Ok (Stream)
HB282: Girl Tears – Candy Darling (Stream)
HB283: Ex Hex – Beast (Stream)
HB284: The Freezing Hands – Good Morning Takeout (Stream)
HB285: Follies – I Make Sense (Stream)
HB286: Happy Diving – Weird Dream (Stream)
HB287: Big Ups – Justice (Music Video)
HB288: Radiator Hospital – Bedtime Story (Music Video)
HB289: Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)
HB290: Watch This: Vol. 40
HB291: The Seeers – Without Lites (Stream)
HB292: Dark Blue – Here On My Street (Stream)
HB293: Lenguas Largas – Kawasaki Dream (Stream)
HB294: Wyatt Blair – Girls! (Stream)
HB295: Perfect Pussy – Leash Called Love (Stream)
HB296: Eternal Summers – Window (Stream)
HB297: Watch This: Vol. 41
HB298: Eugene Quell – A Great Useleness (Review, Stream)
HB299: LVL UP – DBTS (Stream)

LVL UP – DBTS (Stream)

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After a surprisingly slow Monday, Tuesday’s offered up an expanse of riches that included (but weren’t limited to) an incredible Beat Happening cover by Girl Band, a spectacularly lush new offering from Kevin Morby, a stunning demo from the dearly-missed Jason Molina’s Songs: Ohia project, a fierce first look at Vetter Kids’ upcoming Logan, and a strangely hypnotic- and extremely visual- music video from Bear In Heaven. Even with all of that factoring in, it just wouldn’t feel right to neglect LVL UP’s “DBTS” today’s featued spot. After all, it’s entirely likely that Hoodwink’d will wind up as this site’s pick for Album of the Year (if it doesn’t scratch the top 3, then everyone’s in for one hell of a last quarter).

Following both “Soft Power” and “I Feel Ok“, “DBTS” showcases yet another side of LVL UP- one that’s influenced by sludge as much as it is outsider pop, which is something that’s especially visible in the song’s outro. Somehow, it winds up working as well as anything else the band’s ever done. There’s a brutality to “DBTS” that, while not entirely absent from their past work, is emphasized heavily here. Distortion and low-end get pushed to their breaking point, crackling and hissing with a determined relentlessness as everything surges forward. “DBTS” brings Hoodwink’d to its midpoint and goes a long way in setting the stage for what’s to come- but makes a big enough impression to ensure that it gets a very large number of repeat listens. September 23rd can’t get here soon enough.

Stream “DBTS” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d directly from Double Double Whammy (who, incidentally, are having an absurdly strong year) here.

LVL UP – I Feel Ok (Stream)

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LVL UP are drawing closer to the release date of Hoodwink’d, an album that’s loaded with the band’s best material to date. To celebrate its impending release, and to tease just a little bit more of how insanely good this thing is, they’ve offered up another glimpse in the form of the rollicking outsider pop tune “I Feel Ok”. It’s a deceptively complex song that manages to underscore just how capable this band is of writing great songs to anyone willing to invest the time in deconstructing all of its individual elements.

There’s a feeling of ease and weightlessness to “I Feel Ok” that’s not uncommon for LVL UP but taken to new heights on this particular outing. From the song’s ornate percussive features to the twinkling guitar tones and floating vocal melody, it’s an outsider pop gem courtesy of a band that seems to have a ceaseless supply of them. “I Feel Okay” also stands out for stripping away a lot of the band’s gnarled fuzz (something they hit new heights with on “Soft Power“) without shedding any of LVL UP’s immediacy or innate charisma. Never over-reaching or overbearing, “I Feel Ok” is the sound of a band living up to increasingly heightened expectations with aplomb. What’s almost terrifying about the pairing of “Soft Power” and “I Feel Ok” is that between the two of them, they’ve barely scratched the surface of what LVL UP is capable of.

Listen to “I Feel Okay” below and make absolutely certain to pre-order Hoodwink’d from site favorites Double Double Whammy (a label run by two members of LVL UP) here.