Hey WXCU! We’re back this semester with a HOT NEW Lineup of reviews for you!! We will be showing off new Track Reviews every Wednesday, and Album Reviews every Friday! First up, WXCU Music Director and Cleveland Native Matt McCroskey delves in to Cleveland-native Cloud Nothings’ brand new record called Life Without Sound
Ever since I saw a video on Facebook of Dylan Baldi’s band playing outside an indie record store in Cleveland when I was a freshman in high school, I was immediately hooked on Cloud Nothings. I remember before the release the iconic, Steve Albini-produced Attack On Memory came out, I made a DIY sharpie/Hanes shirt that said in big letters “Stay Useless” on it, and the band reblogged a photo of it. Dylan called it “Wild”.
Fast forward 5 years to 2017. With another album under their belts, the 2014, John Congleton-produced Here and Nowhere Else, it may have seemed that the band had finally refined and defined their sound. However, this new record continues to refine Dylan Baldi’s power pop jams to something more clean, focused and mature. But is it for the best?? Only YOU can be the judge of that 😉
Life Without Sound was recorded last year at the famed Sonic Ranch in Texas, and was produced by the famed John Goodmanson (who unfortunately enough, isn’t actually the son of famed actor John Goodman). Goodmanson’s indie rock pedigree that includes productions for Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Simple Plan, Wu Tang Clan, and more shows that this collaboration between Baldi and producer another sonically interesting choice for this record.
From the opening piano notes on “Up to the Surface”, you can tell that this record is going to be something tight, solid, and overall mature. Compared to the opening pianos that opened up 2012’s Attack on Memory, these ones feel more hopeful, focused, and less nihilistic than its predecessor. From here, Baldi’s vocals enter much more quietly, but still sound as sure as ever in his message an intent. Framed by the bass playing by TJ Duke and the impeccable drumming of Jayson Gerycz (who low key may be one of my favorite drummers active today)(who also was in one of my favorite bands from Cleveland called Total babes …. RIP Total Babes), it really sets the tone for what is to come on this album. Despite this, the intro tracks is probably one of the weakest points on the album.
Once we move past this opening track, we get to “Things Aren’t Right with You” – While not a single it’s still one of my faves on the album, and provides some good ol’ fashioned power pop to really get the album poppin’. The real singles on the album, “Modern Act” and “Internal World” perfectly showcase Baldi’s consummate yet continually refined gift to craft perfect pop songs. Their lush and polished instrumentation with a mostly calmer vocal performance from Baldi showcases that he is no longer a kid and is taking on his role as a 25 year old adult.
In my opinion, I definitely think the album continues to improve drastically as you get deeper down the tracklist. After the fantastic “Modern Act”, “Sight Unseen” offers a faster pace somewhat reminiscent of 2014’s “Psychic Drama”. The albums two closing tracks, “Strange Year” and “Realize My Fate” are easily my two favorite tracks on the album. It seems almost like most of the cathartic, chaotic, screaming Dylan Baldi I grew to love throughout my high school years was pent up until these final tracks, where he lets loose on some very dark pixies-inspired indie rock. While I wish there were more moments like this throughout the album, I do understand this is a once young band finally growing up, maturing, evolving, and advancing their career. Not having these moments until the end almost felt like a release to this weird tension I had throughout the whole album, wondering if they ditched all of their aggression for polished pop. Thankfully, they still have it!!
Overall, this is a solid addition to the catalogue of one of my favorite bands to come out of my hometown. While it doesn’t really stand next to it sentimentally as Turning On or Attack on Memory did, I have a feeling this album will continue to grow on me through more listens, as this band continues to grow and flourish in their career.
Thanks for Reading!! You can hear “Modern Act”, “Internal World” and “Things Aren’t Right With You” in rotation RIGHT NOW on WXCU!! Tune in this upcoming Wednesday for our VERY FIRST Track review of the semester!!