Fun fact: back in September of 2010, to celebrate the launch of WXPN’s Philly music blog The Key, a free show took place at The Blockley in West Philadelphia, and one of the bands on that bill was the hooky, Squeeze-esque indie rock four-piece New Motels. That band ran its course (as did The Key), but its primary songwriter, Josh Levandoski, is once again active and regularly releasing singles mononymously as LEV.
The project launched on Bandcamp in 2020 (brightfuturechoir.bandcamp.com) and on a live-and-in-person basis last year. For recording and performing, Levandoski regrouped with old pals like New Motels drummer Kyle McDonough, and linked with new folks like Brendan Duffey of Camera Thief on keys, Jason Dooney of S P ∆ C E S on bass, and Glenside experimental guitarist Doug Wartman.
Together, their sound is bold and expansive, and calls to mind a broad palette of reference points, as we hear in this week’s Key Studio Session. The killer set-opener “Napalm of Late ’95” is undeniably Wilco in vibe, but its meditative energy also radiates early 00s art rock a la The Notwist. “Good Times (Song For Jack Dobz)” jogs at a propulsive pace, with McDonough’s drums rumbling out of our headphones amid nervy melodies recalling Achtung Baby-era U2 (particularly “Love Is Blindness”). The unreleased and supremely catchy “You Were Never Born” is the most reminiscent of New Motels in its jaunty groove; LEV is laying down this song and others at Headroom Studio as we speak. And on the set-closing “No Light (Worth Leaving),” there’s maybe even a touch of mid-period Pearl Jam.
Wrapped in these sonic textures, LEV’s lyrics poetically tackle the everyday anxiety of 21st century existence in a way that’s deeply personal but also extremely relatable. Watch the band’s full Key Studio Sessions performance below; for more, explore their Bandcamp back-catalog.