Dylan Baldi has been writing and recording under the alias Cloud Nothings
since 2008, first getting attention while recording lo-fi indie rock in his parents basement in Cleveland. But since then, albums like Attack On Memory
and Here And Nowhere Else
have gained the band widespread acclaim, as they reinvented their sound again and again. Life Without Sound
finds the band polishing their act, dropping a lot of the fuzz they're known for and working with producer John Goodmanson (Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill, Death Cab For Cutie) to create radio ready rock anthems with a twist. This is a really solid rock album.
The album starts with "Up To The Surface," beginning with a piano line before leading into a morose rock ballad. Baldi has a talent for writing melodies that make you feel like you're in the chorus, and then the song will continue and you'll realize that the best part is still to come. "Up To The Surface" and the other songs that inhabit the first half of the album continue to do this, keeping you off balance while surrounding you with guitars and hooks. It's apparent that the extra time spent on this album allowed Baldi to flush each song out, giving thought to every second of each track. This album has been in the making for over a year, taking longer than any past Cloud Nothings record.
While anthems like "Internal World" and "Modern Act" are the strongest tracks on the album, I found myself halfway through listening looking for some type of chaos or edge to remind me that I was listening to a Cloud Nothings album. Unfortunately, they seemed to leave this until the very end. "Strange Year" and "Realize My Fate" feel like they populate a different album, the overall tempo slows down and becomes darker than the rest of the record. This is not to say I don't enjoy these tracks, I do, but it feels like all of the coarse feelings were crammed into the end, instead of being evenly distributed. This change towards the end keeps things interesting. One facet of Life Without Sound
that really impressed me was their ability to clean up their sound, work with an important producer, and not fall into the trap of losing what made them exciting.
The overall sound of the album can be best compared to slacker rock icons like Pavement, Weezer, and Dinosaur Jr. The guitars are huge and dissonant at times, attitude is packed into every lick and cord change. Baldi's vocals range from innocent confessional tones to all out screaming, and there is something soothing about these changes. Although the lyrics are hard to understand throughout the album, his inflections and intonation on certain words get the message across. "Enter Entirely" showcases his vocal variety best, as the song fluctuates between all out jam and sincere storytelling.
This is one of the better indie rock albums I've heard in awhile. Cloud Nothings are refreshingly anti-gimmick in a genre that's filled with groups that want you to think they're cool. Life Without Sound
is earnest rock that seems to be a step in the right direction for the young band. This record builds momentum continuously, taking you in, making you feel like you're at one of their shows, jumping around soaking up the guitar rock.