Album Review: The Shadow I Remember by Cloud Nothings
Great, Based on 6 Critics
Sputnikmusic - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
Punk is alive and well
The spirit of punk isn't something I ever think about. Like any genre, I usually break punk down to its Xs and Os - what it should sound like based upon the cumulative resume of all the bands that occupy it. Cloud Nothings check most of those boxes, from the uptempo guitars to the pitchy vocals, but there's something seemingly intangible about them that has always helped them float above their peers.
Has there been a busier pandemic band than Cloud Nothings? Within the past year, they have released two remotely recorded full-lengths (The Black Hole Understands and the Bandcamp exclusive Life Is Only One Event), dipped into the archives for 27 digital live albums, reissued an expanded version of their 2011 compilation Turning On, and launched a monthly subscription series. Frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz additionally released two free jazz albums under the name Baldi/Gerycz Duo, and Baldi shared an album's worth of scrapped demos.
And now here they are with yet another LP, this one finished last February.
It's been just shy of ten years since Dylan Baldi's Cloud Nothings shattered any preconceptions that they were just another bedroom pop band, something largely attributed to the Steve Albini-recorded 'Attack On Memory'. Since then, the band have regularly put out albums, with each release seeing them grow in scope, though arguably also mellow with age. It's interesting then, that on 'The Shadow I Remember', the band should revert back to the methods and processes that shaped that seminal 2012 release, even going so far as to bring Albini back for studio duties.
On their seventh album, Cloud Nothings remind us that personal shit persists during a pandemic--that lockdowns give us longer periods to chew over what becomes harder to swallow. As tuneful as ever, The Shadow I Remember presents the Cleveland quartet not as fighters or complacent survivors but as chroniclers, telling fragmented stories about chronic malaise and nights as dark as northern winters. Thanks to engineer Steve Albini and their faith in a narrowing gyre of noise, Cloud Nothings could've released three-quarters of The Shadow I Remember at the peak of their early-2010s ubiquity.
Active not only in the intimidating discography he's produced since that initial release, but also the approach and style of each composition (whether the decision to abandon his bedroom musician persona by hiring Steve Albini for Attack On Memory, the ill-timed pivot to a glossier sound on 2017's Life Without Sound, or even his recent free-form jazz collaboration with Cloud Nothings drummer Jason Gercyz), Baldi's mantra has seemingly been to forge ahead and relentlessly tinker. On his band's latest record, The Shadow I Remember, he has however decided to revisit two events of his musical past; recording with Albini, and returning to a creative state of constant songwriting. How wise those decisions turned out to be is open for questioning.
The Lowdown: After celebrating a decade as a band last year, Cleveland-based rock stalwarts Cloud Nothings have kicked off 2021 by releasing their ninth studio album, The Shadow I Remember. The album's release is significant because it marks the first time that the world has had wide access to the band's new material since 2018's Last Burning Building, as their interim albums (2020's The Black Hole Understands and Life Is Only One Event) have been Bandcamp releases that could only be heard upon purchase. If that wasn't enough of a reason to stir up excitement, The Shadow I Remember also sees Cloud Nothings reunite with celebrated producer Steve Albini of Electrical Audio almost a decade after they had previously collaborated on their album Attack on Memory.