It’s funny how one of the great hopes for indie rock is being played by a 19 year old from Cleveland. Dylan Baldi is the teen sensation behind Cloud Nothings, and perhaps his youth and naivete allowed him to create one of the best records of the year. The self-titled album is everything you could ask from a record: creative, energetic, heart-felt, and just fucking great.
As soon as you press play you just get highly-fueled kick to the face, as “Understand at All” opens with a statement that you’re not going to have much room to breathe here. Incredibly, you have these angular guitars cutting in and out, yet it all holds tightly onto several melodic moments of hook; you don’t find good energetic rock these days with such pop undertones. “Not Important” works as the excellent follow-up here, moving just as quickly into the fray as the opener. A little twist is the rawness of Baldi’s vocals here, almost straining a bit, but it’s pulled off successfully. Personally, the drum work on this track really is the winner, though it’s hard to say there’s anything wrong with Cloud Nothings up to this point.
However, it’s not all high octane indie rock. “Forget You All the Time” might actually be one of the best kept secrets on this album, wrapped at the four spot. Pacing is slowed, and the melody is really sensational. Dylan’s vocal performance is one of the warmest of all the tracks here, and you can’t help but be won over by every inch of the recording. But, it’s sort of the one-off, and though rewarding, it might be nice to see if Cloud Nothings explore a little bit more of that direction in the future.
You know, writing a record review typically isn’t too difficult. You write about a couple of your favorite tracks, point out the flaws you saw, etc, but Cloud Nothings is pretty impossible to write about if you cut it into pieces. There’s probably not enough praise I can give Baldi on this installation in his catalogue. Everything seems to offer up little pieces of my somewhat tainted indie past. Perhaps its the chorus in “Heartbeat” that recalls twee C86 records on speed or the brashness of “Rock.” You’ll find bits of influences all over the map, from Superchunk to GBV to possibly Pains of Being Pure at Heart (or the like), but it sounds refreshingly sincere, as if Baldi has no intention of just copying his peers or his record collection.
While I’m not sure Cloud Nothings are here to save indie rock, this self-titled record is about as good a record as I’ve heard in a long time. You can cut your favorites and put them into playlists, or you can play the whole album in its entirety, as its not too long by any means. In the long run, I’m sort of glad Baldi is so young. It means, as long as life goes well, that we can expect more excellent records for years and years to come. And if you take one listen to this record, you’ll be grateful.
Download: Cloud Nothings – Understand At All [MP3]