CLOUD NOTHINGS – ” The Shadow I Remember “

Posted: December 12, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC

Every few years, Dylan Baldi snaps. After the pleasant jangle of Cloud Nothings’ debut LP, he roped in Steve Albini and literally smokebombed the band we once knew a year later with Attack on Memory – which literally opens with a song called ‘No Future/No Past.’ So last year, in the thick of a pandemic with no end in sight, Cloud Nothings released “The Black Hole Understands”, a return to the breezy, off-kilter melodies of their early work like 2011’s self-titled album. It felt both refreshing and slight, demonstrating how reliable frontman/primary songwriter Dylan Baldi has become, but rarely feeling imbued with the frenetic urgency that animates the band’s most anthemic songs. “The Shadow I Remember” continues to refine the cleaner song writing of the band’s last album, wooly and tuneful in equal measures.

For a band that resists repeating itself, picking up lessons from a decade prior is the strange route Cloud Nothings took to create their most fully-realized album. Their new record, “The Shadow I Remember”, marks eleven years of touring, a return to early song writing practices, and revisiting the studio where they first recorded together. In a way not previously captured, this album expertly combines the group’s pummelling, aggressive approach with singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s extraordinary talent for perfect pop. To document this newly realized maturity, the group returned to producer Steve Albini and his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where the band famously destroyed its initial reputation as a bedroom solo project with the release of 2012 album “Attack on Memory“.

As such, “Last Building Burning” arrives as an equal and opposite reaction to 2017’s Life Without Sound; a record that, while incredibly catchy, also felt somewhat safe. No such feeling here – every track is volatile, propulsive and relentless in its execution. It’s the hardest Cloud Nothings have gone since … well, since the last time Dylan Baldi snapped. “Leave Him Now” is a song about a troubled straight relationship in which the female party is advised to remove herself from it. The twist is: That’s it. Dylan Baldi is not putting himself forward as the substitute. This isn’t a “drop the zero and get with the hero” scenario. This is about a genuine concern for a woman’s wellbeing and stability. It takes a trope of song writing across multiple genres and decades and subsequently turns it on its head. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the catchiest songs Baldi and co. have ever written. How about that.

Opener “Oslo” is a steady build into carefully controlled chaos—a common song structure in the Cloud Nothings universe—but it gets in and out in four minutes, instead of the usual six to seven minute sprawl. “The Spirit Of” deals in the effortless hooks of The Black Hole Understands, while “Nara” shows how Baldi can stretch his own format, cradling the central melody as the song ramps up toward a crescendo that never comes. It can come off like Baldi doubling down on what he knows already works, but he’s simply perfecting his craft, burrowing down into the vital centrer of his songs to create the most direct version of his vision.

Released February 26th, 2021

Dylan Baldi – Guitar, Vocals
Jayson Gerycz – Drums
TJ Duke – Bass
Chris Brown – Guitar

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