Here and Nowhere Else
1 April 2014 (Carpark Records)
By Joe DeBonis
“Music that is 100% happy is terrifying,” says Dylan Baldi in a direct quote from a recent interview done with Pitchfork. A sentiment so strong and truthful, Baldi basically sums up what Cloud Nothings have been doing and trying to achieve since their conception in early 2009. Their music isn’t overly sappy and full of a fake happiness or joy that doesn’t truly exist in this world. Nor is there an overly emo vibe to their music that is equally not realistic. Cloud Nothings make music that represents life better than most bands in today’s musical realm, and they do it by acting as natural as they can.
Pure, raw emotion is so God damn hard to come by these days in music. Well, let me recant that statement. Plenty of artists can sing with feeling and can get into their songs and plenty of artists are passionate about the music they make. The way Dylan Baldi just tears into each song he sings though is something else. His scream is both full of anger and haunted by sadness many years his elder as he roars through each song sometimes so violently it sounds like blood could come flying out of his mouth if he got any louder. His voice is the perfect mixture of an emo screamer as his voice is tinged with just a hint of a whine while he can also turn to his punk side and can warp his voice into such a powerful, scream full of rage.
On the chorus of “Quieter Today” Baldi contorts his voice to sound so brutal and angry at the world that it brings goose bumps to the back of my neck hearing him screech so angrily. He is only 22 but the way he takes control of each song with the power of his scream is reminiscent of someone three times his age. The passion he has is unparalleled in today’s music scene and combining that aspect with fast paced, punk rock is an unbeatable duo.
So really even if Baldi had a terrible band backing him his voice could lead him to great things. Luckily for the world that is not the case. TJ Duke and Jayson Gerycz make up the rhythm section and rest of the band and honestly hold together one of the tightest groups in music all on their own. Even if Baldi caught a cold and his singing was incapacitated, the jam band rock infused with a punk/noise influence would be enough for any fan of the band to still listen and enjoy.
What Here and Nowhere Else brought to the table though, was something even the best bands have trouble doing: a follow up worthy of comparison to the band’s breakthrough. Attack On Memory was arguably the best punk/emo/rock album of 2012 and instead of withering at the amount of hype and press the band received, they returned with an album more defined yet less cohesive if that is at all possible. The album is about the same length but instead of flowing like Attack On Memory, there is a much more charged and chopped feel to the music they are making now. There is still plenty of leftover sounds and ideas from their previous release and the catchy, primal vocals still remain. Sometimes though it feels bare and harsh, feelings that did not really exist on Attack On Memory. Either way, both albums showcase Baldi and his voice but also a quick, vicious punk pace that is irresistible and impossible to avoid tapping a foot to.
Another impressive thing that was continued with Here and Nowhere Else is the short, succinct feel to the album. Only eight songs and under 35 minutes of music, the album still feels like a full length LP instead of bordering on being a long EP. It helps that all the songs are so powerful that the energy expended to both create them and listen to them that is exhausted far more quickly than if the band was still making their more relaxed lo-fi punk combo from their earlier albums. At times it would seem that more than eight songs would be welcome, but really, any longer and the sprint of an album would begin to feel long winded and over drawn, something that would take away from the already powerfully short songs on the album.
All the while, they still manage to have time to rock out and let at least one song stretch on past their norm. “Wasted Days” on Attack On Memory and “Pattern Walks” on Here and Nowhere Else both push eight minutes long themselves and showcase the bands ability to experiment with the noise and distortion available to all musicians brave enough to tackle the sounds their instruments can be strained to make.
This being the band’s fourth album leads to the discussion of growth for the band both musically and in general. When Turning On was released Baldi was a soon to be college drop out, not even old enough to drink legally. The music the band made then gave off the impression of a budding band, still wet behind the ears. Musically the album was extremely lo-fi and almost emotionless compared to now. Listening to it back to back with any newer Cloud Nothings material is truly remarkable to hear just how far they have come. Even from Attack On Memory the band has made strides. Baldi has opened up even more with his voice and the whole feel of the latest album is a little wilder, less tamed. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Gerycz talked about how Baldi was starting to attack his vocal assignments to the point where the band thought that he might hurt himself.
The difference between the ages of 22 and 17 is enormous and that fact in itself proves this 2014 version of Cloud Nothings is nothing like the 2009 version all because Baldi has grown so much. At 17 life was still a brand new concept to him but after five years of touring, experiencing mass amounts of failure and then sudden fame can wear and tear on anybody, especially someone so new to the adult world. That essence of failure to success over night that Cloud Nothings basically experienced is so prominent on this album as they mix between anger at the world for their past disappointment to their hope and pleasure that now rides with their continued accomplishment. It’s an interesting place to be in, but one that lends itself to some of the best and most honest music of this year.
Rating: Gotta Have It