Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else

On their 4th record, noise-rock trio Cloud Nothings triumphs sonically and emotionally.

Additional Info

8.6

ALBUM: Here and Nowhere Else

ARTIST: Cloud Nothings

2014

Alternative

The album arc of Cloud Nothings is like a steep slope approaching infinity, starting from the bottom and rapidly soaring a skyward trajectory. Their new release Here and Nowhere Else solidifies this upward trend towards musical triumph. This musical offering is around 30 minutes, a similar length to their three previous releases, but what sets it apart from the rest is the sheer maturity that it emanates. It doesn’t seem like an accident that they’ve worked up to this. What’s telling is the amount of time spent between record releases. Only three months separated their first and second records, and one year separated number two and number three. But this time around, they spent more than two years between records. These progressively longer time lapses point to the serious effort the band took in working on their art—and this concentration really shows in the finished product.

Their first two records were solid: lo-fi power pop that evolved from Dylan Baldi’s solo bedroom pop project to progressively more intense studio effort. It felt like the real breaking point was their third record, which was loaded with a pure unadulterated heaviness that no one had seen coming. It was definitely felt like a complete album more than anything else. This record continues with that trajectory of heaviness with an even greater sense of cohesiveness—there’s a clear arc, musically, emotionally, and thematically; and every song feels like it belongs where it was placed. This intentionality sets this record apart from what they’ve done in the past (though their other releases have been quite good); it makes it feel very special.

Sonically, this record goes beyond the labels it will surely be given. Honestly, the first genre to come to mind upon hearing this record was “pop punk,” but I knew right then that was just too easy of a knee jerk reaction. It’s raw; it’s fuzzy; it’s noisy; it’s punky. At times, it even recalls old emo music at the height of the genre’s quality. It cycles from being irreverently dissonant and insanely catchy, almost poppy—but somehow their sound is completely effortless. Frontman Dylan Baldi’s voice especially contributes to the easy flow the album has. Sometimes his voice has a smooth quality, but a lot of the time he sings in this part growl, part scream, part deadpan kind of voice that’s quite hard to describe. It sounds like he might be straining his voice, but it sounds so natural that you forget about everything else. It’s the kind of voice that you can really get behind emotionally, which is perfect considering his lyrics are one of the driving forces of the record.

Thematically, this record really tells a cohesive story, each song providing bits and pieces of the narrative. At first listen, there are many references to the sensory, like hearing, seeing, and related experiences like thinking and walking. They’re almost arranged in thematic pairs too, the first two dealing with hearing (“Just Hear In” and “Quieter Today”) and two later dealing with seeing (“Just See Fear” and “Giving Into Seeing”). Paying attention more, we hear Baldi narrating his struggles with identity and dissociation. The emotion in his voice is the glue that holds it all together, and it’s completely compelling. The emotional evolution through the album is amazing to see, the climax being the noise breakdown in the seventh track “Pattern Walks.” The last track finds him addressing parts of his identity, but he seems he’s reached a breakthrough with how he deals with his trauma. He feels more at peace, and we do too.

This record is almost flawless. The only major thing bringing it down is that it gets a bit too comfortable in its formula in the middle; the spark they had in the beginning sort of dipping. But luckily, this arc is a parabola that goes right back up to the top by the end. Like the Japandroid’s Celebration Rock from 2012, this record is triumphantly and effortlessly anthemic. Though it’s dark, it’s hopeful. It’s something that many people can get behind emotionally and sonically. Cloud Nothings have crafted something that’s noisy and emotional as hell, but still remains pleasure to the ears.

“I’m not telling you all I’m going through”

1. Now Hear In
A few plucky chords resonate for a few seconds before Baldi’s pleasantly direct voice start right in. Without much time at all, the song builds to an epic level of dissonant grunginess that sets the tone for the album as a whole, his almost subdued voice serving as the perfect foil to the wall of guitar sound. Its slower tempo feels a bit too draggy at first, but as the song grows, it feels just perfect. One lyric stands out from the rest, not only because it’s repeated more than a few times but because it’s puzzling: “I can feel your pain and I feel alright about it.” Even if we don’t know quite what this line means from the get-go, from this point on, we’re meant to see that this is a very emotional record lyrically.9.5
2. Quieter Today
After a wonderful establishing track with “Now Hear In,” the record really picks up the pace with this next one. Baldi’s smoother vocals get more abrasive and sloppy here, showing off his grungy half-shouts, yet they manage to convey such effortlessness. Between the verse and the chorus is a tiny little pause, which feels like a welcome invitation to catch your breath before the guitar attack of the chorus. Even though it slows down a bit for the refrain, the combination of chords they employ just sounds so triumphant to a pleasurable extent. Their anthems work wonders.9.0
3. Psychic Trauma
At the start, the simplistic 4/4 drum beat and simply strummed chords aren’t immediately compelling. But his half growl/half deadpan vocals just grab you right when they come in. The energy grows even more rapidly when the tempo doubles at the chorus, and then there’s no turning back even when the drummer takes a small break. It’s insane how quickly the track builds to epicness at the end with the guitar solo and rapid fire drum rolls just getting your heart pumping. It really redeems itself by its close.8.5
4. Just See Fear
This is the point in the record where the energy takes a bit of a dip. They go back to the lo-fi tendencies of their earlier albums, but the reverb goes a bit too far, especially on the vocals. They’re smooth, but they feel so distant from the rest of the track. The riffs are pretty good, but a little formulaic compared to the rest of the record. The big moment on this track is his screaming explosion at the end. With the wishy washy vocals through the rest, the build to this end feels justified. It’s a solid track, but not the best.7.5
5. Giving Into Seeing
A song that starts with such an angular riff seems like the least likely candidate to be the most chaotic track. But beginnings are deceiving, and this band thrives on these changeups. It almost sounds like we’re starting in the middle of the song, simply because the vocal melody starts so suddenly and sounds like one you’d hear right before the chorus. The lyrics are especially built on repeats, with “Swallow!” being endlessly repeated from whisper built up to a scream. What’s also so pleasant is that the guitar riff follows the vocal melody, even while the song descends into a cacophony of guitars. The sonic juxtapositions bring this song to a wonderful level. 8.0
6. No Thoughts
Recalling the first track, this one starts out with a subtle grungy riff in minor and a simple catchy melody. The whole song is almost entirely a build for the epic ending, where Baldi full out screams the lyric he’s repeated over and over, “You don’t seem to care at, I don’t even talk about it.” The line feels like it’s two parts layered at the middle, with an overlap at the “at, I” mesh. The first part seeming unfinished feels intentional, since he interrupts himself with a reminder to himself that he doesn’t talk about. The detail is small, but being repeated over and over gives it so much emotional weight.8.5
7. Pattern Walks
There are a lot of expectations for a long track. At 7.5 minutes, the longest on the record, it’s a relief that they know how to budget their time well. As the start, there’s something psychedelic about the composition, with the noisy dissonant guitars and the overly reverbed vocals. It continues on as a slow-burning jaunt at a medium pace with his voice growing slowly into a scream. The drop off into pure noise for a minute shakes things up for almost a full minute, but finds some semblance of order when some punky chords come back in. In another shake-up, it turns into a melodic and dreamy number to the close with the vocals added in. There’s such a catharsis reached on this song that completely validates its position on the record. 9.0
8. I’m Not Part of Me
Post-emotional catharsis, we hear a lighter Cloud Nothings than we’ve heard before on this record. While some pleasure is found in finally hearing the album title dropped in the lyrics, a lot of it comes through in the triumphant attitude that’s conveyed through the resolving chords and catchy chorus. It feels like the summer anthem you didn’t know you were looking for, and it feels so right.9.5
Written by Hailey Simpson
Now attending college at UC Berkeley, Hailey's main passions in life are attending every concert she possibly can while keeping up with her studies, drinking copious amounts of Philz Coffee, and spinning tunes on her college radio station KALX.



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