Cloud Nothings was founded in a Cleveland basement, the one-man recording project of Dylan Baldi, an unassuming, then 18-year-old student of song with a remarkable ear for melody. Prolific from the start, Baldi’s early work was rough but immediate: crudely recorded, spring-loaded spasms of Buzzcocks-informed pop that quickly found an online following among the lo-fi-inclined. When an opportunity presented itself to open a small show in Brooklyn, Baldi abandoned a still-in-progress final project to be there. The gamble paid off.
In 2010, Carpark unveiled Turning On, a retrospective introduction that combined early 7″ singles and the full-length debut (a limited release on cassette and vinyl) from which it took its name. The following year, Cloud Nothings made its proper Carpark debut with a thrilling self-titled LP that found Baldi in a studio for the first time, shedding the many layers of hiss and distortion that had once obscured (or enhanced) his every hook. What followed was an unexpected breakthrough, 2012’s Attack on Memory, an album that very loudly (with the help of producer Steve Albini) announced the arrival of Cloud Nothings as the sound of more than just Baldi: Caustic and cathartic, it marked the first time Baldi wrote with and for his longtime touring band, drummer Jayson Gerycz, bassist TJ Duke and since departed guitarist Joe Boyer. While its rightly acclaimed and hastily recorded follow-up, 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else refined and expanded upon the volcanic interplay that galvanized its predecessor, it also found Baldi realizing his potential as a singer and the leader of an undeniably great rock band.
Which brings us to Life Without Sound, his most polished and outwardly reflective set of songs to date. Workshopped over the course of a year with his bandmates, it’s an album rich in both worldly insight and incandescent detail. Smart, nuanced, and immensely listenable, this is guitar-driven pop as it should be—conceived by a songwriter who continues to sound like one of the finest of his generation.