by Tom Alexander (@___alexd)
The last time we saw something semi-official (aside from last year’s single) from The Glow was back in June 2015: a small eight-song release titled May 2015. This title alone speaks volumes about the release, like hastily written notes on the back of a napkin. Short and intuitive, the songs marked a moment in time, but like all great ideas, they never went away. Instead, they percolated in Mike Caridi’s mind, nagging at the corners, insisting to be made full. Almost exactly four years later, The Glow is back with a true full-length debut, Am I.
If Mike Caridi’s name sounds familiar, well, it probably should if you are readying Post-Trash. Caridi is the head of the label Double Double Whammy along with Mallory Hawkins. If that still doesn’t ring a bell, Caridi was in LVL UP, the influential and much-beloved band that parted ways last year in 2018. So while most folks will be new to The Glow, they’ll probably be familiar with Caridi’s music or creative tastes to varying degrees. Am I represents this new post-LVL UP chapter for Caridi, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to move on just yet.
Am I is all about memory – how we see ourselves in light of our actions, how we preserve the things that matter to us, how the past creeps into present. It’s no mistake, then, that many of the May 2015 songs resurface on Am I. Their core melodies and lyrics stay intact, but the songs are bigger and fleshed out. “Beamer” gets a full band backing; “I Am Not Warm” is nearly doubled in length and given a beautiful layer of distortion; “Lose” has been retitled from “dns” and cleaned up. It’s not a coincidence that many of these songs about memory are reconstructed and saved for posterity on a formal release – Caridi has been thinking a lot about it. “I’ll see you in my backseat dreams / Cause my memories escape me,” he sings on “Beamer”. The song, about a childhood dog since passed away, could easily be a depressing funeral dirge (it includes images of houses burning and the dog’s mother’s grave), but Caridi spins it a different way. In his wistful delivery, that line is turned into something optimistic and hopeful – his dog Beamer may not be around, and his memories may not be perfect, but they’ll come to him all the same, even if it is just in dreams.
Many of the finest moments on Am I come from the newer songs. One of these tracks, “Am I Good,” is not only one of the best songs on the record, but it plays with The Glow’s own past. As it begins, Caridi’s voice is slightly muffled, and his guitar sounds distant, just like an older DIY recording. Within seconds, though, The Glow of the modern era opens up, with rich guitars, a live drum kit, and lovely bass. It’s a playful turn for those that have been listening to The Glow, and Am I is full of these little nods to the past. In a move of absolute poetry, Am I begins with the question “Am I good?” and ends with a song quoting former-bandmate Dave Benton’s Trace Mountains: “I will be better this time.” This final song, “Memories” - led by a retro synthesizer in yet another wink towards the past – feels like Caridi coming to terms, even singing “I really think that I’ll miss you guys,” and you don’t need to be a hardcore LVL UP fan to read the connection that he evokes here. Tellingly, though, that final line: “But I’m learning to say goodbye” is cut short just before he can finish the word “goodbye.” The Glow may have resurrected the past and come to terms with it, but the band isn’t ready to move on just yet.