Songwriters: Mike Caridi
The Glow’s debut album begins with a question—“Am I good?“
Less concerned with finding an answer, this query instead serves as a mantra for Mike Caridi (LVL UP) as he explores self-loathing and anxiety, love and self-improvement.
Am I is a sonic transition of sorts for Caridi, bridging the gap between the end of his long-time rock band LVL UP and a new, more solitary musical future. While the record’s first five songs were written between two LVL UP albums -- Hoodwink’d (2014) and Return To Love (2016) -- the second half was written partly for LVL UP’s never-to-be next record and partly after the band’s split. Though Caridi draws from the same sonic palette that defined his recognizable contributions to LVL UP, the freedom of writing and primarily recording on his own has created the space for experimentation and exploration.
“Lyrically this album reflects inward and attempts to point at and deconstruct parts of myself that I don’t like” Caridi reveals. “I tried to mimic this within the recording process. It’s easy for me to put together the ‘rock song’ versions, so I wanted to take as many opportunities as I could to break down a song to its elements and then put it back together again.”
There’s a playful nature to this deconstruction, apparent in first single “Beamer,” where guitars are replaced by mellotron flutes and cellos. The record’s third track “Losing My Cool” — a song that feels as childlike as it does cohesive — travels through secret teenage kisses into meaningless moments of adulthood as guitar riffs from the first verse are transformed in the second verse via flutes and strings. Elsewhere, “On The Rocks” presents a straightforward rock song then suddenly takes it away, stripping down to swirling feedback and minimal percussion before slowly reintroducing the song’s elements one at a time.
For Caridi, Am I has two distinct thematic parts. “I think the second half contains a lot more hope and self-love than the first half.” Side A ends with “I Am Not Warm,” sung with certainty through guitar fuzz and frustration. Caridi notes: “I’m naïvely saying ‘I Am’ rather than asking ‘Am I?’ I remember feeling this way, completely defeated and believing ‘I am this way and there’s nothing I can do to change it.’” Hope enters in side B opener “On The Rocks,” suggesting “happiness needs to start first with me, then maybe then the loneliness will start to fade.“
The album ends on the lo-fi and vulnerable “Memories,” which references a lyric written by fellow LVL UP member Dave Benton for his new project Trace Mountains. “Can I quote one more line? ‘I will be better this time.’ Words that resonate behind my eyes; I really think that I’ll miss you guys.”
Says Caridi: “In a way this album is all about saying goodbye. Goodbye to the band, goodbye to parts of myself, goodbye to partners, goodbye to pets, goodbye to family.” But still, the final seconds of the album feel like a cliffhanger -- an abrupt click of a tape recorder and Caridi’s faint exit in the distance. Am I’s tightknit collection of songs may not answer all of the questions it presents, but it finds satisfaction in leaving space for more to say. Perhaps Caridi is not quite done yet.