“Is this the end/of the life I’ve known?” Cloud Nothings vocalist Dylan Baldi asks on “Oslo,” the opener of their ninth album, The Shadow I Remember. It’s a jolting call to reality, offering a hand in solidarity as we navigate the continuously unknown. With its jagged, confronting brand of post-hardcore-edged indie rock, the track is unrelenting. It sets the tone for an intensive, album-length inward look at growth. This iteration of the band finds Baldi joined by bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown and drummer Jayson Gerycz, assembling once again to write and work their way through hard questions to grapple with in the wake of change.
The Shadow I Remember boasts the parts of Cloud Nothings that they consistently nail—hard, sometimes unnerving instrumentals that are coated with Dylan Baldi’s earnest lyrics. Alongside their familiar sense of musical urgency comes an introspective side, as the band grapples with being needed, or not; being enough, or not. “Nothing Without You” is the album’s gold star earner, boasting the best that Cloud Nothings offers—jagged offbeat drums, grungy yet clear vocals, and a clamoring in-between noisy blend of percussion and guitars. They even made a video game to accompany the track’s release; it’s fun, and just the right amount of weird. Baldi said in a press release that it “explores both the negative and positive aspects of dependency, whether it be on a person, a place, an object, or nothing at all.” Macie Stewart of Chicago band OHMME lends guest vocals, adding a new lens to the harsh, cold sound of Cloud Nothings’ rock, breaking through and letting some more light in. The song deals with a heavy, constantly nagging thought: what do we do without our partner?
The Shadow I Remember is an album that feels like it could only have been written with the (sometimes daunting) extra time the pandemic has provided. To sit with ourselves for extended periods, look within and truly wonder if we are okay spending time with ourselves, is a lot. Yet, Cloud Nothings’ approach to the obstacle through music is head on, acknowledging it for the grittiness it brings. The title of “It’s Love” is a bit misleading, however, its lyrics instead focusing on life’s hardness. It’s a cannonball of raucous, raw emotion, not even mentioning the L word until the last 30 seconds of the song. Perhaps the depth of love is measured in your willingness to do the difficult things. On the other side, love might be the driving force that aids us and gets us through the hardness.
On The Shadow I Remember, Cloud Nothings strive to push through their challenges, individually and together. As a band with more than a decade of history, they may even know each other better than they know themselves. Even amid the chaos, there is strength in their sound, and The Shadow holds a sense of power—as if each member is leaning on the other, seeking comfort in the one constant that they have not lost. Their bond is steadfast, reminding us of what can still be created and accomplished, even in the darkest of times.
Extremely proud of her documentation of every Wegman’s item in The Office. Once got last place in a corn shucking competition.