Upon my first listen to this record, Cloud Nothings sure sounded like a fully-fledged band to me – so I was a little surprised to discover that the album is, in fact, played and sung in its entirety by 19-year old Ohio native Dylan Baldi. It’s a surprise because, rather than seeming painstakingly multi-tracked to perfection, these songs sound like the product of a spontaneous, lo-fi session in someone’s garage – and I mean that in the best way possible.
‘Understand At All’ kicks the record off with bratty vocals and guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Feeder record, and the record doesn’t really pause for breath from there on out. ‘Heartbeat’ is a fast-paced three-chord number that’s done and dusted in little over a minute, while ‘Rock’ ups the intensity immediately afterwards, moving at such a swift pace that Baldi almost struggles to keep up with his own guitar playing.
More often than not, Baldi’s lyrics seem to revolve around the confusion of teenage life and relationships – “How can I feel bad when nothing’s wrong?” he muses on ‘Nothing’s Wrong’, while the chorus of ‘Been Through’ sees confusion turn into disbelief (“I am understanding but I can’t believe what you’ve been through“). However, he’s also got a sharp tongue at times – “You’re not that important now/and it will always stay the same” he spits on ‘Not Important’, and on ‘You’re Not That Good At Anything’ he openly admits to a girl that “I was saying/you weren’t that hot/I was saying/you weren’t that cute.” Ouch.
It’s not all rapid-fire punk attitude though. ‘Should Have’ is a dreamy-voiced power-pop number that has echoes of Ash’s debut album, while ‘Forget You All The Time’ is mellow and even a little melancholy – it’s a nice change of pace and the closest thing to a ballad on Cloud Nothings, that’s for sure.
“I say forget whatever/I’m doing fine right now,” sings Baldi on album-closer ‘All The Time’, and I think that’s a fair assessment of where he is musically at the moment. On the whole, Cloud Nothings rarely strays too far from its power-pop-punk template, but that doesn’t make the scuzzy, lo-fi tunes contained within its 28-minute running time any less pleasing. A promising debut album from a talented young man who could easily go on to create even bigger and better things.