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CD of The Week

Week of 3/01/21

    Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember (Carpark)

    It feels a little disingenuous calling The Shadow I Remember the latest from Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings when the band had such a fruitful 2020. Using Bandcamp as their outlet, the band self-released two full-length albums, an EP a month to subscribers, and nearly 30 live albums from locales all around the globe. It’s a pace that would most likely wind members of Guided by Voices, but they held steady. In comparison, the material on The Shadow I Remember is relatively old news, most of it being recorded pre-pandemic with producer Steve Albini. Don’t let the passage of time fool you though. The Shadow I Remember brings raw emotion, existential lyrics, and driving melodies together in a way that’s familiar and fresh.

    The album begins with “Oslo”. While the lyrics might at first suggest ruminations on living a life through a global pandemic, it is actually about addiction and recovery (taking inspiration from the Norwegian drama “Oslo, August 31”). “Am I older now? / Or am I just another age?” sings Dylan Baldi. The darkness portrayed in this song is balanced by the pop catchiness of “Nothing Without You”, the album’s lead single and for good reason. With a sticky refrain and athletic beats from drummer Jayson Gerycz, it’s a reminder of the band’s subtle ability to write a song you can really tap your foot to and enjoy.

    After these first two songs, the album moves at a sprint. “The Spirit Of’ brings emotional optimism to feelings of self-doubt while “Only Light” adopts a whatever-it-takes attitude to connect with someone who could end up changing your life. Next up is “Nara”, named after a Japanese city that Baldi spent some time in following their 2019 tour in Japan. The song acts as an inner monologue and features the kind of introspective writing that has become a staple of the Cloud Nothings catalog.

    The title for the album is actually taken from a lyric in the album’s closing track “The Room It Was.” It’s repeated over and over through the closing minutes of the song, one which could be interpreted as autobiographical of both where the band has been and where they are going. “Well these words aren’t changing anything at all / And this room is not the room it was before.” It speaks to the deeper sentiments felt when change brings with it perspective. The lyrics are simple but carry a weight that is complemented by a stellar performance from the rhythm section.

    Clocking in just shy of 32 minutes, The Shadow I Remember is another entry in a long series of stellar releases from Cloud Nothings. While the content of the songs suggests a band that feels themselves to be at a crossroads 10+ years into their career, it also exhibits a maturity in composition that points to a place where the sky is the limit for them.

    Review by Keith Obaza

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