Level and the Square

We were never going to grow up to be our parents. The 60-Hour work weeks and the ennui-inducing commutes. The endless rows of the same exact outfit hanging in our closets like nooses. The late night screaming matches that we heard as kids from our rooms downstairs—or, on those nights that we were brave, that we eavesdropped on hiding behind the couch. That was never going to be us.

But then one day, it suddenly is—and there you are, in the middle of an existence that you never quite planned, fighting to find a way out. And sometimes, it feels like the fight is all you know. So you spend your nights surrounded by the people you love doing just that. Fighting and screaming and breaking down, just like your parents before you.

From Here To The James is about that realization. It’s a record that’s absolutely consumed with the idea that you’re living a life that you never intended. It’s an album that is filled with songs of regret. But on an emotional level, the first album from The Level And The Square also feels like the morning after a late night screaming match, when you look up and come to terms with the change you need to find.

Written both during and immediately following a heavy era of turmoil for singer-songwriter Nik Piscitello (who is also the lone musical entity behind The Level And The Square), From Here To The James sonically nods to many of the musical influences that Nik has had since he began playing music almost two decades ago. There are shades of fellow punk rock-turned-classic American songwriters like Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry in these songs, as well as layers of the nuanced melancholy that recall some of his personal heroes like Mark Kozelek and Jeff Tweedy.

But in the end, only one person could have really written From Here To The James, and that’s Nik. He lived these songs—for better and, at times, for worse. But more importantly, he has learned to use them as a way out. In these songs, he’s no longer stuck or angry or sad. While those emotions surface frequently, they ultimately paint a portrait of a man who, after all the screaming and late night misgivings sees a world where love can create a sort of escape hatch. As he winds the album’s stunning and somber centerpiece “Fire To Flames” to an end, he repeats the line “I should have been yours tonight” to anyone who will listen.

And suddenly, a lyric that could sound like an apology, feels a lot more like a brave new beginning. [+]