Return To Love


Sub Pop, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


On their third album and first for Sub Pop Records, the four collaborators from New York known as LVL UP illustrate just how well several musicians with different influences can come together to produce spectacular, diverse sounds. While the outfit is often classified under the indie/alternative umbrella, Return To Love has much more to offer, and they do so in some of the most unexpected ways. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Hidden Driver” leads off with a speedy, lo-fi acoustic strummer that builds into a louder, pulsating rocker not unlike Sebadoh flexing their muscles. “Blur” follows and is a plugged in affair with influences like Pavement. Next up, the more subdued “She Sustains Us” is a cautious, thoughtful tune that would make Doug Martsch (Built To Spill) proud.

The middle of the album offers us longer, expansive songs of fuzzy, noisy rock, with the post-punk traces of “Spirit Was” matched with the ambient sounds and the soft versus loud dynamics of “Pain.” “The Closing Door” then maxes out the fuzz with quirky, anthemic, and dense genius.

The back half of the album is full of surprises. For instance, the sludgey, doom metal opening of “Five Men On The Ridge” abruptly shifts to gentle waters before the Dinosaur Jr.-esque move into a throbbing rocker. This transitions into the softest moment on the album, the soothing, meditative “Cut From The Vine.” “I” is the most rowdy tune here, full of melody and harmony, and often sounds like a lost track from Built To Spill’s Keep It Like A Secret, which of course means it's one of the best songs in recent history. The paradigm then shifts again to the seven-minute droning of “Naked In The River With The Creator,” which mixes a key-heavy spiritual haze into jagged, booming experimentalism.

Rumor has it that LVL UP may have broken up had Sub Pop not offered to put this album out. Let's put this on a long list of things we need to thank Sub Pop for, as the feedback, distortion, and multiple singers (among all the other pros already listed) make this an essential rock adventure.

Rating: A-

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© 2017 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sub Pop, and is used for informational purposes only.