Sub Pop – September 23rd
LVL UP’s Return to Love – their third LP and Sub Pop debut – is the result a truly collaborative effort. Taking the varying ideas of their four members – three of whom write and sing equally – and pouring them into one musical cauldron, the fuzz-fond New York foursome concoct an enticing, invigorating indie rock potion.
Much of Return to Love’s magic lies in it inherently warm guitar tones and full-bodied vocal delivery. Even on the dynamic opener when they’re philosophically pondering whether there’s a ‘Hidden Driver’ controlling our destiny, the vocals retain an innately soothing quality. The lines “God is peeking, softly speaking / Fucking everything until I slowly do see” roll off the tongue with such ease that their slightly unsettling meaning almost goes forgotten for a moment. The whole thing takes on an upliftingly, somewhat surprisingly anthemic tone.
‘Pain’, the album’s emotional high point, does likewise. It may concern “[wanting] to hurt” the person who hurt a loved one and scornfully wishing that they “grow old / And never find love”, but it defies its less than upbeat lyrical content. LVL UP have a knack for that, as they further demonstrate on ‘The Closing Door’ and ‘I’.
Though it somewhat loses its way on its more experimental second half – ‘Cut from the Vine’ drags forgettably and ‘Naked in the River with the Creator’ is less an epic finale and more an overdone one – Return to Love largely succeeds because of LVL UP’s collaborative approach and not in spite of it. It won’t bring happiness as such but for its revitalising effects, the potion’s well worth drinking.