Review: Cloud Nothings – ‘Life Without Sound’
Posted: by The Editor
Being a band is hard enough. Being a band from Cleveland? Even worse I would imagine, because, well, it’s Cleveland right? Speaking from a Canadian perspective, it seems as if the city is always forgotten or never talked about, unless one refers to the failure of their sports franchises. But then 2016 happened and thanks to their success of their sports franchises, the city was reborn.
I bring this up because it’s pretty obvious that the sudden rise and “rejuvenation” of Cleveland coincides nicely with the self-proclaimed reemergence of Cleveland natives Cloud Nothings. For fans like myself, it may come as a surprise that the band considers Life Without Sound a resurgence, however, in a recent interview with SPIN magazine, Dylan Baldi, singer/songwriter of Cloud Nothings, told Ian Cohen “I’m not sure what happened over the span of eight months. Everyone’s happier […] I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my life anymore”. Obviously this sentiment of his life being a waste of time has not been felt by fans, of which I’m sure there are many who hold the group’s previous two releases Attack on Memory in 2012 and Here and Nowhere Else in 2014 in high regard. But Dylan Baldi wasn’t satisfied, with himself, how his life was going or how his music career was going. Basically, Dylan Baldi and Cloud Nothings were on a mission. A mission they’ve damn well accomplished.
Released via Carpark Records, the album begins with an interesting introduction. The opening track “Up to the Surface” starts off slowly. It swoons in and out with a nice little chorus that is unassuming, but as I said before, is not like other Cloud Nothings songs. After the sombre piano-ballad featured in the first few seconds of the song, the aptly titled track strongly eludes to the band resurfacing after a three year period where, even throughout many troubles and frustrations, they have recorded easily their most expansive and coherent record yet. It serves as a prelude of what’s to come.
Don’t get me wrong, the record still manages to find a nice balance between what worked in the past – guitar happy but with the right attitude – and their current approach. Fans of the band should expect less of the chaotic, fast- paced, lo-fi fuzzy indie rock that was prevalent in past works. Instead, the band opt to a more polished and smoother sound and ditch the quirky, yet predictably angsty lyric contents for something that delves deeper into Baldi’s emotions and experiences. The result is tracks such as #2 “Things Are Right With You”, a confidently driven track with self-reflection on Baldi’s part.
Throughout the record Cloud Nothings show bursts of energy woven in and out of almost slow motion guitar rhythms. This is another example of the change of pace the band decided to go with. It’s almost indicative of how one goes through ups and downs during their early twenty-something’s.
Tracks such as “Internal World” and “Enter Entirely” – both of which were singles released during the album roll-out – exemplify this best. The combination of melodic chorus with a tenacity that’s all too recognizable is what makes the record a triumph. That dynamic doesn’t restrict itself to only specific tracks, but the wholealbum itself alternate between highs and lows.
Tracks like “Darkened Rings” and “Modern Act” provide the reassurance that the band haven’t completely moved on from what made them popular to begin with as it absolutely rips through with Baldi’s torrid change in vocal patterns carrying you through the struggles of confusion and anxiety that almost all young adults must face. Baldi’s vocals on this album feel like a step up. I already mentioned the confidence he holds in his tone, but this time around, it feels as if he wants you to know that even through everything, YOU will be alright, and life is what it is, but we can get through it.
If there’s one thing that holds this album back it may be the lack of catchy sing-along choruses, not to say that the album really needs them anyways. There’s that, plus, the album is only 9 songs! However, the album sees a more constant, impassioned driving force that carries it forward, like something that’s been waiting to be revealed for the last three years.
Call it what you will, but the album is a showcase of not only the bands growth in maturity, but Baldi’s growth as a person himself. I discovered through the same interview with SPIN, that Baldi is only now 25 years old. That means he was 22 when the band was touring endlessly in support of their 2014 release Here and Nowhere Else, a fact which absolutely stunned me. Baldi took what might be the most important time of his life as a template for Life Without Sound. From the aforementioned opening track, its evident that the record was going to be different from what fans were used to. This isn’t a record that is out to prove anything to you, me or anyone else, but more a record that Baldi and the band needed to write for themselves.
You can purchase Life Without Sound here: https://cloudnothings.bandcamp.com/album/life-without-sound
– Steven Lalonde