Emerging singer/songwriter Lev starts out with a bang on "When I Hurt You," the first single from his upcoming EP.

Being an artist is weird, especially in this day and age. No matter how introverted your music might be, how wounded and sad and delicate, how dark and misanthropic, you're still expected to be approachable, exciting, glamorous, larger-than-life. It's possibly the weirdest thing about life under social media. Where we might've once tuned into Instagram to catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the lives of the biggest superstars, now even up-and-coming indie musicians are expected to live up to the same level of glamour and excitement. It can be nerve-wracking for musicians looking to live more of a quiet life, who simply want to write and create and not worry about image.

This dichotomy was a stumbling block for Lev, a precocious, itinerant young musician and songwriter. The expectation to be larger-than-life caused Lev to wonder if he had what it takes to be an artist and a musician, causing him to focus on songwriting instead. For Lev to truly feel like he had what it takes to be an artist in his own right, he needed to explode. The result is "When I Hurt You," the opening statement from his upcoming debut A Year Spent Underwater.



Beginning with some epic, heroic millennial whoops before compacting into more intimate, acoustic singer/songwriter fare, "When I Hurt You" tells the story of a young musician who realizes his toxic tendencies in a relationship, how he errs towards being emotionally unavailable, even if no one's calling him out on it. What's truly striking about "When I Hurt You" is how many different styles of music are present. It goes from glistening Coachella Pop to hushed plucky acoustic music to electronic Club Pop, all in the span of one verse and chorus. Yet it nevers feels busy, never feels contrived. Not only is Lev bristling with ideas, he's able to assimilate them all into a smooth, cohesive whole.

It's a sweet, uplifting romantic pop ballad, emotional without becoming saccharine, vulnerable without being depressing.

Considering what a strong debut "When I Hurt You" is, We Are: The Guard are thanking the lucky stars that Lev's managing to find a balance that works for him. Here's to more honesty and vulnerability in Pop Music, and less posturing in the indie underground.

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J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.