Song of the Day: LVL UP - Pain

Song of the Day
08/31/2016
Matthew Howland
photo by Andrew Piccone

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Morning Show with John Richards, is “Pain” by LVL UP from their forthcoming album, Return to Love, out September 23rd on Sub Pop.

LVL UP - Pain (MP3)It's all about the build. Starting with the distant tone of guitar fuzz, LVL UP's "Pain" kicks in at the forty-second mark, frontman/songwriter Mike Caridi's distinctive vocals invigorated by the rhythmic interplay between guitars, bass and drums, and a start-stop rhythm straight out of David Gedge's playing book. Caridi's melody is catchy and subtle, undercutting the unflinchingly direct anger in the track's lyrics, targeted at the person (embodied or otherwise) who hurt a loved one. In a chorus which dissolves into a wall of guitar noise recalling Built to Spill's "Stab," Caridi sings "I hope you're cold/ I hope you grow old/ And never find love," the final wish repeated as Caridi's vocals become drowned out.

Since emerging from the SUNY Purchase music scene, LVL UP have made a name for themselves for their ability to mix atmospheric guitar riffs with romantic, often disaffected lyrics, creating their own version of hard indie pop. Founding the Double Double Whammy label in 2011, the group has also helped solidify a community of endlessly talented songwriters emerging from the greater New York area in the past five years, including Frankie Cosmos, Eskimeaux, Told Slant, and Cende. For their debut release on Sub Pop, Return to Love, LVL UP have further developed their sound, resulting in their most mature and oddly anthemic set to date. Despite frequently emotionally intense subject matter, LVL UP's sound offers optimism in the face of death and loss.

LVL UP is touring in support of Return to Love, including a likely packed house show in Seattle on Monday, October 17th. They also play the next night in Portland (10/18) at Analog Cafe. Check out their Tumblr and Facebook for more details. In the meantime, here's a video of the band playing "Pain," as well as their great track "DBTS", from a set at Brooklyn's vital Palisades venue.

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