Formed in Cleveland as an outlet for Dylan Baldi’s lo-fi, indie-pop songs, Cloud Nothings have offered up various EPs and splits displaying Baldi’s knack for songwriting. On the group’s debut full-length Cloud Nothings, Baldi proved he could create an entire album of upbeat angst-ridden anthems. After touring heavily with a backing band, Baldi entered the studio with acclaimed producer—and notorious curmudgeon—Steve Albini to record Attack on Memory, the group’s sophomore album.
Opening with “No Future/No Past,” Attack on Memory displays a different side of Cloud Nothings—one that buries hooks deep inside a track instead of putting them at the forefront. “No Future/No Past” layers guitars on top of piano, building tension slowly and deliberately as Baldi trades in his signature snarky delivery for one that borders on brooding. While the track still has the heart that Cloud Nothings fans have come to love, Albini’s production proves the group doesn’t need a layer of fuzz to be effective.
“Wasted Days” is a nearly nine-minute number that boasts a lengthy jam for most of the song’s duration. It is reminiscent of something from the Fugazi documentary Instrument, where the band effortlessly vibes off one another—avoiding self-indulgence—while propelling the track into disparate directions, all the while keeping the listener engaged and invigorated.
Even with Cloud Nothings’ ambition growing, the group proves that it is still capable of writing infectious pop hooks. “Fall In” never relents, attacking listeners with moment after moment of pop-punk goodness. Even here, where Baldi and Co. craft a track that feels like a classic Cloud Nothings song, it is still infinitely more complex than anything found on the group’s debut. Throughout the album, Attack on Memory anchors its ambition with simpler indie-punk jams that keep Cloud Nothings from ever going overboard.
“Separation,” an instrumental, eliminates Baldi’s distinctive vocals but still integrates the Cloud Nothings trademark. It serves as a constant barrage of aggression instead of merely displaying how adept each individual musician is. In these moments, when it appears that Cloud Nothings is becoming a more cerebral act, it ensures every movement is purposeful. When the band is jamming, it is never meandering: every note is played deliberately, pushing the song, the album—and the band itself—forward.
Taken on a base level, Attack on Memory could appear to be a divisive record for Cloud Nothings fans. It sees Baldi push his songwriting in new directions, and with a talented group of musicians accompanying him, it hints that Cloud Nothings has way more up its sleeve than just upbeat indie-punk. Attack on Memory sees Baldi display influences such as The Wipers or Fugazi—acts that would never have been referenced in his earlier work—and integrate them naturally. With Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings proves that it is becoming one of the most interesting young acts in the indie-punk world.
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory tracklist:
- “No Future/No Past”
- “Wasted Days”
- “Fall In”
- “Stay Useless”
- “No Sentiment”
- “Our Plans”
- “Cut You”