Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings have been pretty consistent in their decade-long career. A slow but ever-evolving sound from misfit Midwest emo punks to something grander, and angrier. 2012’s breakthrough Attack On Memory was a substantial shift in sound to something more jagged, more forceful, and more locked into the times. A modern day post-punk statement, thanks to both frontman/founder Dylan Baldi living a little and hooking up with producer/Electrical Audio studio guru Steve Albini.
After 2014s equally engaging Here and Nowhere Else the band mellowed a bit in sound, still writing great tracks but pulling back on the post-punk aggression. Baldi leaned heavily into making power pop for indifferent punks and seemingly found a balance between existential pondering and hopeful optimism.
After two self-released albums of pandemic pondering in 2020 Cloud Nothings have returned to a more aggressive sound, and to producer Steve Albini, with The Shadow I Remember. The band is tight and Baldi is writing from the perspective of someone looking for some light, emerging from a year full of dark unknowns.
“Oslo” opens with a low rumbling of piano, distorted guitar, and Baldi’s tempered vocals before the song builds into a cacophony of noise. Albini’s approach to producing records is to be as hands off as possible. Use the right mics, set them in the right spots, and then let the band do the rest. Cloud Nothings are a tight band that have a decade of playing together under their belt, so putting them into a room and letting them do their thing is how you get a great-sounding album. “Oslo” is raw, engaging, and a great way to bring us in. Likewise, single “Nothing Without You” singes with buzzsaw guitars and pop punk energy but never sounds overproduced and tinkered with. Raw nerve emotions and subtle piano intermingle with post-punk guitar stabs.
Elsewhere “The Spirit Of” bounces with a youthful grandeur and the feel of a last night of freedom before the world dictates responsibility and sets its weight on one’s shoulders. “Nara” captures both the early 80s abandon of OMD and the indie guitar earnestness of the Feelies. “The Room It Was” closes the album out on angular riffs and punk rock fervor.
The Shadow I Remember sees Cloud Nothings continuing their string of solid albums, and giving us their most aggressive set of songs in years.
7.8 out of 10