Young Cleveland artist reveals a debut moulded in the power-pop tradition.
Alex Denney 2011-01-20
The solo project of 18-year-old Cleveland resident Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings fairly rained down on 2010 with a series of super-tight EPs in the best power-pop tradition. That material was gathered for a compilation LP, Turning On, released in October, but this is the debut proper, shifting focus from the teenage songwriter’s parental home to a studio in Baltimore, with Dan Deacon and Future Islands producer Chester Gwazda on board.
Improving prospects aside, though, the basic deal is the same, and Cloud Nothings rattles along at a fair old clip, boasting an embarrassment of hooks delivered with unassuming, ‘it’s-probably-nothing-but’ panache. Think Ash, Weezer and maybe a pinch of Teenage Fanclub for references or, if you prefer the modern-day practitioners, Wavves with a better report card or Johnny Foreigner without the tweecore trimmings.
Baldi’s grasp of power-pop dynamics is undeniable, even imaginative at times – check Heartbeat’s racing, stop-start declaration that "I don’t have a heartbeat, why do you?" for proof. It’s a moment that could’ve been lifted from a late-90s pop-punk smash, but Baldi ends it there at the minute-ten mark, most likely just because he can. Understand It All sounds like Brian Wilson in a runaway shopping trolley with his pockets stuffed full of fireworks, while Been Through is another highlight, with the aggressive melancholy of early Pretenders material.
Meanwhile, Not Important’s all ragged, hormonal yelps that segue nicely into Should Have’s more melancholy number, and Forget You All the Time provides another instance where the hooks are allowed to flow rather than jab with a sweet, mid-tempo backing. The respite is brief: Baldi cranks things up about a million gears with Nothing Wrong’s slightly rote slogathon, like an embarrassed teen suddenly realising he’s been tricked into talking about his emotions.
It’s terrifically fleet of foot and free of attitudinising; to the point where the breakneck approach may even be selling his evident skills as a songwriter short. As it is, Cloud Nothings is probably best enjoyed in short, cathartic bursts – but but there’s a sneaky feeling the best may be yet to come from Baldi.