ALBUM: Here and Nowhere Else
ARTIST: Cloud Nothings
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”