There was no skepticism as a staff when it came to deciding the Best Music of September, a finite collection of titles echoed in an email thread and one simply received the most votes, the most dittos. We did not debate heavily, everyone remains on speaking terms, and no one feels cheated or fooled—that is to say hoodwink’d.
LVL UP splintered off after the release of Space Brothers, no longer a band of undergrads from SUNY Purchase, and members went on to form Spook Houses and Sirs. They dedicated their time to labels like Double Double Whammy and the electronic workshop Totally Ruined Circuits. Eventually they’d end up together again at a place coined David Blaine’s The Steakhouse, a DIY squat in Bushwick. Three years since your last record, three years to enter and wallow in your mid-20s, is bound to produce a record like Hoodwink’d. The boys are not broken by the fool’s game of an early life crisis, nor are they pompously declaring “we won’t get fooled again.” LVL UP are here merely to address the lingering feeling there was supposed to be more. And they appropriately placed it at our doorsteps at the beginning of a new semester.
The Best Album of September:
While Space Brothers was 22 blistering minutes of nervously pivoting from one great, yet underdeveloped, idea to the next, Hoodwink’d reigns in the band’s focus, giving each song its proper due and allowing them to build a cohesive, coherent artifact. Aside from being both sonically and thematically tighter, Hoodwink’d—more than their previous efforts—showcases LVL UP’s musicianship.
Between constant self-referencing and its mostly abstract lyrics, Hoodwink’dclearly offers a lot to think about. And yet, at the same time, it doesn’t require much thinking. Ultimately, that’s the genius of this album: it’s simultaneously a totally accessible pop record—full of catchy hooks and ripping solos—and a depressing series of existential crises. The combination of the two is an album that’s both a wonderful contradiction and a must-listen.
For more on LVL UP read our feature.