Life sucks, I understand. Many of the most important decisions come at an age where the brain hasn’t fully developed to make rational decisions. The irony behind setting out on a plan to make the life defining choices when the maximum potential for making the choice hasn’t been reached yet is unbelievable. At 19, deciding whether to spend the incredible amount of money to attend college or not isn’t a pleasant choice. We’ve all been faced with blindly following our paths because some elective course in high school “..sorta interested me?”. We’re also at the age where our kids, younger brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces are heading full speed into these choices. What captures me is how they cope with it. I naturally turned to music as an escape from my future. Pavement, Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and especially Archers of Loaf were my leaders in deciding the key moments of my young life.
It’s been growing stale, having the same old bands breaking up, and ultimately forced into replaying old albums. Cloud Nothings have been one of the few bands that capture the essence of the 90’s alternative rock scene, and doing so accurately. They’re aggressive, in your face, and lo-fi. With the release of the incredible Attack On Memory 2012, I finally heard something that defines the term nostalgia. It’s now 2014, I’m two years older, and Cloud Nothings have released the follow-up album, Here and Nowhere Else.
How is it? Well, it’s even better. At a speedy 31 minutes, the band packs an insane amount of content in. Their aggressive, distorted sound is very tight. Hearing that Steve Albini didn’t produce this album scared me a little, but it helps to have a change of pace. The production is still top notch (which means it’s even shittier for the sound). The drums strike resonance that blare into the listeners ear like a gun shot. Opening with “Now Here In”, they charge full speed in using every technique they’ve grown in this very song.
Dylan Baldi has surpassed any expectations set out for him when he started this solo project. They noisey, grungy singer has developed a perfect voice that’s comparable to Stephan Malkmus of Pavement. He’s a defining character in indie rock who let’s loose on songs like “Quieter Today”, which showcases the bands tempo-changing noise rock, and “Giving Into Seeing”, the loudest of the eight songs. They play within a certain distinct sound, but keep the overall sound fresh with “Psychic Trauma”, which many first time listeners will love. They noise pop opening of sweet sounding chords jumps right into a screaming match between the guitars, drums, and Baldi’s amazing voice.
Like Attack On Memory, they keep the addition of a longer song alive with “Pattern Walks”. It feels better placed in the track listing now, as the listener is eased into the monster that is this song. Sprawling seven and a half minutes, it doesn’t change much. Whether it’s a change of hook near the end, or an instrumental section, the bass driven track flows smoothly (if ‘smoothly’ correctly describes Cloud Nothings) from section to section. Baldi also mentioned that he was planning to make this album darker, and it’s very noticeable. There’s no light anywhere on these songs. Even the single, “I’m Not Part Of Me”, has sucked out any form of positive energy and transferred into musical rage. It’s beautiful.
I have to admit, Cloud Nothings have challenged themselves to grow as a band and musicians, and they have. Even as song-writers, they’ve improved. Baldi’s lyrics strike a chord for a stronger element on Here and Nowhere Else. On the final track, “I’m Not Part Of Me”, Baldi keeps the simplicity of 90’s alternative lyrics, but strengthens the words by using such incredible energy to leverage his disbelief of a broken relationship by writing, “Leave it all to memory of / What we did when we were young and / Now you could just leave me on my own”. He’ll connect with a lot of fans for what he sings instead of how he sings.
To many people picking up and trying out Here and Nowhere Else, they’ll dedicate many hours, car rides, lonely walks, and tough nights to Cloud Nothings. They’ve released an album that resonates with a younger age group of indie rockers the same way Sonic Youth or Pavement defined an entire decade of music. Dylan Baldi won’t understand the impact of releasing an album like this, as for him, this album is him releasing unset emotions through an art form. For the many who give this a try, it’s a defining album that showcases itself in the listeners darkest times. Hopefully, it brings them the escape that many of us needed in the toughest challenges we’ve faced so far. At the end of the day, though, Cloud Nothings are just a band with an amazing album.