Essential New Music: Cloud Nothings’ “Life Without Sound”

For the past nine years, Cleveland native Dylan Baldi has been working out his lo-fi power-pop angst as Cloud Nothings. Baldi’s first release under that banner, 2009’s Turning Up, was recorded in his parents’ basement when he was 19 and alerted the world to a massively talented and insightful one-man band. 2014’s acclaimed Here And Nowhere Else was hastily written and recorded between tours with his stage-and-studio band, but his fourth album, Life Without Sound, shows how deliberation and time can improve even greatness.

From the start, Baldi’s wheelhouse has been a mosh-pit collision among Tommy Keene, Velvet Crush and Hüsker Dü in a raw evocation of power-pop melodicism and punk dissonance, and Life Without Sound adheres to that basic template. The major shifts here are Baldi’s sonic sophistication and maturation as an arranger and lyricist, as evidenced by the stinging piano introduction to opener “Up To The Surface,” the ringing tribalism of epic closer “Realize My Fate” and the infectious whip-crack pop that fills the 30 minutes between them.

—Brian Baker