Posts Tagged ‘LVL Up’

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Since his old band LVL UP broke up, Dave Benton has shifted his focus towards his solo project Trace Mountains. His new album “Lost In The Country” is coming out in a couple of weeks, and we’ve already heard a couple of songs from it, the title track and “Rock & Roll.”

He’s sharing another new track, the lovely daydream “Me & May.” “There are two worlds,” Benton sings. “The one you’re making every day/ And the one that always gets away/ So just sing your silly song/ And someday soon we’ll all be/ Waking up on a hazy afternoon/ Drifting straight into a dream with only good things.”

“‘Me & May’ is a loose story about past-life connections,” Benton explains in a statement. “I wrote it right before we went into the studio to track drums. Our bass player Sean wants to open a café and call it Gasoline Horseys, inspired by the Sparklehorse song and the song is sort of about me & him. I asked my friend Carmen Perry to sing on the track.”

“Me & May” Lame-O Records Released on: 2020-03-26

Under the moniker Trace Mountains, Dave Benton writes music that asks large questions in quietly profound ways. On the project’s earliest release, the 2014 compilation Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs, these thoughts appeared as lo-fi scraps of wit and tenderness. But by the time A Partner to Lean On, Trace Mountains’ debut full-length, arrived in 2018, Benton’s perceptive indie rock had matured into more existential meditations about identity, existence, and finding sense in an increasingly chaotic world.

In the two years since A Partner to Lean On, Benton’s life has undergone several large changes, namely the dissolution of LVL UP, the indie rock quartet he co-founded in college, and a move to Kingston, a small city in New York’s Hudson Valley. Composed during—but not directly inspired by—this transition, Trace Mountains’ second record, Lost in the Country, reflects Benton’s need to reconnect with his inner world.

Prompted by an urge to access a more authentic voice, Lost in the Country finds Benton digging deeper into candid songwriting. “I wanted to open myself up and write lyrics that are a little bit more direct,” he explains. “I write a lot of songs that are about myself and a lot of songs that aren’t, but on this record, the focus is turned inward either way.” The result is Trace Mountains’ strongest and most assured record yet, 10 songs driven by a desire for introspection and self-discovery. The backdrop for this insularity is an expanse of wide blue skies, seas of trees, and winding roads, ideal locales for thoughts to blossom into greater reflections of the outer world. The slow-burning “Absurdity,” which Benton modestly says is about “hiking and standing in the country,” uses the sublimity of the wilderness to comment on technology’s inescapable presence. Similarly, the driving opener “Rock & Roll” transforms the premise of a “simple song about being a rocker” into a stream-of-consciousness, apocalyptic poem about delusions, regrets, and getting lost in your own limited perspective. This self-examination culminates with the record’s ambitious and anthemic title track. Channeling the cosmic sprawl of the War on Drugs or Kurt Vile, Benton recalls a moment of deep loneliness and depression outside a concert venue in the Netherlands, and how an unexpected moment of compassion led to a moment of awakening.

Despite its frequently bucolic setting, Lost in the Country’s underlying current is an urgent commitment to Trace Mountains and “finding a creative process that requires me to be honest with myself.” “I know I sing to forget, I sing to hold my breath, to feel the thumping in my chest,” Benton sings on “Cooper’s Dream.” This line is “rooted in the importance of music in my life, it’s definitely a reflection on that and how I can keep it in my life, because if I’m not careful and I don’t nurture it, I could lose it.” The self-imposed pressure has been empowering for Benton. “I really like having full control in making a record, deciding what songs are going to be on it, as well as shaping the vibe or narrative of the whole thing,” he says. “It brings a peace of mind knowing that I am responsible for just my voice.”

While Benton is Trace Mountains’ songwriter, he asserts that Lost in the Country is by no means a solo effort. Collaboration is crucial to the project and Benton is quick to credit the contributions of his bandmates, which include Jim Hill (Slight Of), Greg Rutkin (LVL UP, Cende), Sean Henry and Susannah Cutler (Yours Are the Only Ears). “It’s definitely our record,” Benton says. “I couldn’t make this thing without them.” After beginning the recording process at Brooklyn’s Studio G with engineer Matt Labozza, Benton finished Lost in the Country at his home studio in Kingston, where he also added contributions from Carmen Perry (Voice), Stew Cutler (Guitar, Lap Steel), Dan Goldberg (Synthesizer) and ARTHUR (Samples, “AB” by ARTHUR). It was then mixed by Mike Ditrio and mastered by Ryan Schwab

Former LVL UP member Dave Benton makes music as Trace Mountains, and Lost in the Country is his second full-length record. He wrote the album during a period of transition, following the 2018 end of LVL UP and his relocation from Brooklyn to Kingston, New York. Ahead of the LP’s release, Benton shared “Lost in the Country,” “Rock & Roll,” and “Me & May.”


The Band:

Dave Benton (Voice, Guitar, Mellotron, Saw)
Jim Hill (Guitar, Organ, Bass, Voice)
Greg Rutkin (Drums)
Susannah Cutler (Voice, Synthesizer)
Sean Henry (Bass)
Carmen Perry (Voice)
Stew Cutler (Guitar, Lap Steel)
ARTHUR (Voice & Drum Samples – “AB” by ARTHUR)
Matt Labozza (Effectron II)
Dan Goldberg (Synthesizer)

released April 10th, 2020

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Since 2011, the New York band LVL UP has grown up from a dorm room demo collaboration into a full-fledged songwriting force. From their indelibly catchy debut album, Space Brothers, to their 2016 Sub Pop Records release, Return to Love, the band never lost the spark that made their warm hearted indie rock tick. Now, after seven years together, LVL UP are calling it quits, but not before issuing an emotional swan song. “Orchard,” the group’s final single, feels like a fitting end to a musical project based on college friendship. It’s the sort of tune you might imagine playing over the closing credits of a buddy movie as the sun sets in the rearview mirror.

On “Orchard,” thick guitar chords and a haze of synthesized flutes evoke the feeling of humid summer air, while downturned vocal melodies convey a sense of nostalgia for a time that hasn’t quite ended yet. Midway through the track, all the instruments save the drums fall away, leaving the vocals bare. “Watching water run through the fingers,” sings vocalist and guitarist Mike Caridi, as if he’s trying to freeze time as it slips by. By the end, though, drummer Greg Rutkin has shifted to an upbeat pattern, putting an optimistic spin on the melancholy mood. It’s as if a new beginning were forming inside the song’s finish, a new era emerging from the close of the last one. “Orchard” may be the epilogue to a great rock act, but it’s also a reminder that there’s life after the breakup of a band.


More spicy-hot gumbo to spoon into your ears. LVL UP write great songs and there is just something charming  about them. This band is simply infectious! For me, The Closing Door might be among my favorite songs thus far of theirs. It hits all the right spots and is a song anyone can get into. Definitely recommend giving this band a listen. Hopefully some new product will be out this year.


Originally released July 16th, 2015

LVL UP is Greg Rutkin, Nick Corbo, Dave Benton and Mike Caridi. Susannah Cutler makes keyboard contributions on The Closing Door.

The character in ‘Blur’ is a person who despite his demeanors, is living in loneliness and nostalgia. There’s something subtly striking and tragic about someone living in the past, which the character in Blur is doing, in an increasingly monotonous and cyclical sense throughout the video.” the idea of a character doing burnouts in an empty lot. I thought that was a hilarious but depressing visual, that said so much to me about this character’s inner life, and we jumped off from there. Mike’s songs deal a lot with nostalgia, loneliness, and memory, so it felt right to document and dramatize parts of his life that he’s put into the music as well.”



Skater slackboard hunk-punks from Brooklyn, Philadelphia pull through again with their crooked take on post-2007’s Smashing Pumpkins meets the coked out vibes of the “what-if-Pavement-were-from-the-70s” reunion revival of yesteryear, servin’ up a dash of what’s better known as This side of singer Greg Ruthking’s jizzed out stoner fantasy mind.” Pain from the LVL UP album Return to Love (release date: September 23rd 2016)

LVL UP’s excellent previous album Hoodwink’d was released through Double Double Whammy and Exploding in sounds and now the band have hopped, skipped and jumped over to Sub Pop in what seems to be an attempt to release as many records on as many great labels as possible. This is indeed a great record right from the off. Opening track ‘Hidden Driver’ not so much makes a nod to Neutral Milk Hotel but actually sounds like it could be a cover version and I’m not complaining. The whole album just sounds gorgeous, like you’d want your most reliable, cheerful best mate to sound if they were a record. At the midway point “Pain” encapsulates all that is great about this band with its mix of gentle strumming, melting melodies, bounce and crunching guitars. Return to Love is arguably good old American indie rock by numbers but hey, those are some pretty perfect numbers.


Billy Bragg and Joe Henry
Shine A Light – Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad
The new Billy Bragg and Joe Henry album ‘Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad’ on Cooking Vinyl. In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station looking to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the music it inspired. Winding along 2,728 miles of track over four days, the pair recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at trackside while the train paused to pick up passengers.


Bruce Springsteen  –  Chapter and Verse

‘Chapter and Verse’ is the audio companion to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, ‘Born to Run’. Five of the album’s 18 tracks are previously unreleased. Springsteen selected the songs on ‘Chapter and Verse’ to reflect the themes and sections of ‘Born to Run.’ The compilation begins with two tracks from The Castiles, featuring a teenage Springsteen on guitar and vocals, and ends with the title track from 2012’s ‘Wrecking Ball.’ The collected songs trace Springsteen’s musical history from its earliest days, telling a story that parallels the one in the book. 2LP – Double LP Set


The Big Moon – Silent Movie Susie
Limited 7″ vinyl. It has been an exciting introductory year for Juliette, Fern, Soph and Celia of The Big Moon. Making riotous guitars and stadium-ready choruses look like the most effortless thing on earth, The Big Moon are creating no shortage of buzz. With each new release, they continue to reach brand new heights. ‘Silent Movie Susie’ is their most obvious pop nugget – it oozes summer fun, style and a big hook of a chorus. Think a mix of the Pretenders and Elastica.


Warpaint -Heads Up

Warpaint are back with their third album! ‘Heads Up’ was recorded after Warpaint spent 2015 apart working on solo projects, including Jennylee’s recently released album ‘Right On!’. Emily, Theresa, Jenny and Stella then reunited in January this year with producer Jacob Bercovici, with whom they had worked on their much loved debut EP ‘Exquisite Corpse’. ‘Heads Up’ was recorded at House on The Hill studio in downtown LA, their home studios and Papap’s Palace.2LP – Double Black Vinyl with Download.LP+ Limited Pink and Black Vinyl with Download.


Billie Marten – Writing of Blues and Yellows
Titled ‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’, the 17 year old’s first full-length is released via Chess Club / RCA. The songs on ‘Writing of Blues and Yellows’ are as remarkable for their beguiling beauty as for the age of their singer. All are at once intimate and airy, like secrets blown in on a breeze. All have enchanting lyrics that linger long after they have left Billie’s lips. All showcase a voice so perfectly pure it sounds almost otherworldly. The painted cover art sets the tone for the Brit’s collection of whimsical, timeless tunes with its faded, vintage look. Like Billie’s music, it couldn’t be less on-trend or modern. Which is why it stands out. The teenager’s recent releases make the cut as well as new single ‘Lionhearted’ and a couple of old favourites (‘Bird’ and ‘Heavy Weather’). For fans of Laura Marling, Joanne Newsom and Kate Bush.
CD – 13 Track Standard CD.
CD+ – 18 Track Deluxe CD featuring extra demos, alt versions and more.


LVL UP – Return to Love
‘Hidden Driver,’ the opening track of LVL UP’s third album and Sub Pop debut ‘Return to Love’, never stops moving. What starts with unassuming guitars and vocals adds new lines, depths, and intensity, until its unrestrained, triumphant finish. “God is peeking, softly speaking,” repeats the chorus, working through the relationship between spirituality and creative inspiration, and introducing a band that is always pushing further. LVL UP was formed in 2011 at SUNY Purchase as a recording project between Caridi, Benton, and their friend Ben Smith, with the original intention of releasing a split cassette with Corbo’s then-solo material. They instead released that album, Space Brothers, as one band, and Rutkin joined shortly afterwards for the group’s first show. Smith left the band for personal reasons just before the release of second album Hoodwink’d, a joint release on Caridi and Benton’s label Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound. DDW also put out records from other artists in the tight-knit community that launched the band.


Fleetwood Mac – Mirage
Fleetwood Mac’s streak of five consecutive multi-platinum albums began in the Seventies and continued in 1982 with ‘Mirage’, the follow-up to the band’s 1979 double-album, ‘Tusk’. During the summer of 1982, ‘Mirage’ topped the album chart and added to the band’s already impressive canon of hits with ‘Hold Me,’ ‘Love In Store’ and ‘Gypsy’. Following last year’s deluxe edition of ‘Tusk’, Fleetwood Mac continues chronologically with the deluxe edition of ‘Mirage’. This new edition expands on the original album with newly remastered sound, a selection of rare and unreleased recordings, as well as the stories and pictures behind the album.CD – 12 Track Remastered.2CD – Double CD in Digipack with an extra 19 Track CD of B-Sides, Outtakes and Sessions.Heavy – Three CDs, DVD and LP. Original album remastered, plus b-sides and rarities; the original album on LP; live performances; and a 5.1 mix on DVD.

LVL UP – ” Pain “

Posted: September 16, 2016 in MUSIC
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“Modest and majestic… Guitar fuzz with actual emotional impact.” -Rolling Stone

“Homespun, 1990s-indebted indie pop… A uniquely vulnerable songwriting voice makes LVL UP distinct.” -Pitchfork

“Dirty guitar fuzz and labyrinthine lyrics.” -NPR

LVL UP has a knack for making angsty and heartfelt guitar records with enigmatic, Built To Spill-style poetry.” -The FADER

“Jangly, propulsive blasts of brightly melancholic guitar-pop.” -Stereogum

“A gorgeously crunchy amalgam of everything right during ’90s heyday, channeling both the rock brawn and playful charm of Pavement, Built To Spill, and Weezer.” -Consequence of Sound


LVL UP — guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin is a true collaboration, a band that takes the stylistically distinct ideas of four members and brings them togeth- er into something new. Caridi, Benton, and Corbo write and sing equally, bringing their work to the group to be fully realized, resulting in an album built on different perspectives but a common drive.

“We have very different inspirations across the board,” says Benton, noting his own admiration for the writer and documentarian Astra Taylor, Corbo’s interest in the mystical and the occult, and Caridi’s attention to personal storytelling. The music itself grows from a shared melodic and experimental sensibility, as well as a nod to iconic influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie.

LVL UP was formed in 2011 at SUNY Purchase as a recording project between Caridi, Benton, and their friend Ben Smith, with the original intention of releasing a split cassette with Corbo’s then-solo material. They instead released that album, Space Brothers, as one band, and Rutkin joined shortly afterwards for the group’s first show. Smith left the band for personal reasons just before the release of second album Hoodwink’d, a joint release on Caridi and Benton’s label Double Double Whammy .


“Pain” track from the LVL UP album Return to Love

Lifting fog reveals a cloaked figure in crooked moonlight and it is shown — The Closing Door — the Blur of spirit passing through — Proven Water Rites burning effigies of past selves — demonstrations from beyond a lifting veil. First, the listener dims the lights, burning all candles found within the dwelling. With eyes open toward the ceiling, the listener feels dull heat from the candles in front of them. Eyes closed now, the listener begins to regulate their breathing and in time presses play on their device. Eyes open again, the listener reaches their hands to hover above the nearest flame for the duration of the first passage. The listener stares directly into candle’s flame, regulating their breathing. At the dawning of the second tune, the listener lowers their hands to hold and protect the candle in front of them. A new kind of light is shown now, and the listener’s thoughts may begin to wander & blur, but they continue to stare. At the end of the second passage, the listener blows out all of the candles without hesitation. In near darkness now, the listener is left to sit, breathing the remnants of fire and thoughts that drift about the room. This is the final song.Out now via Double Double Whammy & Run For Cover Records.

Pressing Info:
Bone with Bronze Haze / 300
Milky Clear + Black color in color / 500
Sea Blue / 700

released 16 July 2015
LVL UP is Greg Rutkin, Nick Corbo, Dave Benton and Mike Caridi.


Brooklyn’s  The Downies are an underground supergroup of sorts. The band’s members play in an array of other bands and various projects, including Porches and LVL Up, and are by-and-large affiliated with the local SUNY Purchase alumni scene that revolves around the venue David Blaine’s The Steakhouse. an apartment that three-quarters of the band happen to live in and the one that LVL Up  wrote a song about . Downies are believed to play incredible live shows, many of which occur at The Steakhouse and other surrounding venues, but the band hadn’t released any official recordings until “Widow” this is the first single off of Downies’ forthcoming EP, and it’s a welcome introductory taste of a band that’s destined to make a huge defined footprint in the local scene this year.  This was the impetus for Downies beginnings and name, says fellow DBTS dweller / DDW-wizard Dave Benton, “All of the band members lived downstairs at the Brooklyn house-venue, DBTS, thus calling themselves ‘Downies’.

The song itself is a short power-jam replete with a noticeably sunny vocal tone, splashy guitars, and an unabashedly song-driving kick drum pattern. Nearly every moment in the song feels like it cannot wait to get to the next phrase, making the track go by much faster than expected. The chorus features hand claps and tambourine that sound playful when compared to the respective discographies of the Downies members; there is a certain open-air tone that belies the crafted studio sound of both Porches and LVL UP’s most recent full lengths. This is not to say that those albums (Slow Dance In The Cosmos and Hoodwink’d respectively) are without breeziness or fun of their own, but there is a noticeable difference in sound on “Widows” that is hard to sum up in other terms.


We reached out to Father/Daughter’s Records co-founder, Jessi Frick, to talk about her experience with Record Store Day, and how she’s releasing the next “Faux Real” compilation number two outside of the event. Premiering the first song from the new compilation: It’s from Brooklyn rockers LVL UP, who cover “Somebody Kill Me Please” as originally performed by Adam Sandler (aka Robbie Hart) in the movie “The Wedding Singer”.