On the second song off of the new Cloud Nothings album, “Things Are Right With You,” frontman Dylan Baldi sings out “feel right, feel right, feel lighter” in a chanting refrain.
Cloud Nothings is known for putting everything into their hooks, and this hook coincidently serves as a perfect synopsis of their new project Life Without Sound — it feels right, and it feels just a little bit lighter.
Cloud Nothings’ last two releases Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else were projects that possessed urgency both in the sounds they possessed and the album titles themselves. Their music didn’t sound lo-fi because it was recorded with lack of effort, it sounded that way because it existed in the moment, and needed not be refined.
Each track felt like a high-speed chase to capture Baldi’s feelings in their entirety before it had time to escape or be altered by the passage of time, and it was this exigency that made their sound exciting.
On the bands most recent project, Life Without Sound, the group trades moments for meditations. That’s not to say this album is meditative; the Cloud Nothings’ trademark barking vocals, frantic dissonant guitar and chaotic drumming are all still present. The difference lies in the songs themselves, songs that feel like composed responses rather than knee-jerk reactions — they work in give and take rather than all-out assault.
This all stems from the increased attention to dynamics and structure on the album. The tempos and intensities rise and fall parabolically, rather than raging on with reckless abandon. Songs like “Internal World” and “Realize My Fate” feature extended sections of uplifting instrumental ascensions that synthesize logical cohesion from the band’s more chaotic elements.
Cloud Nothing’s exploration into heightened sense of conceptuality on Life Without Sound within their music is not too dissimilar from that of Car Seat Headrest’s on their critically acclaimed 2016 release Teens of Denial. Both albums find each band doing away with their lo-fi grittiness through finding more depth in higher production and more intricate arrangement.
For the most part, the sonic departure for Cloud Nothings makes sense and works extremely well. That being said, some of the punch that the hooks in their previous albums had seem to have been lost in translation this time around. Attack On Memory and Here and Nowhere Else served as master classes on the rock chorus. Song’s like “Stay Useless” and “I’m Not Part of Me” off their last albums rep rock hooks that are debatably among the best in the last decade.
The same can’t be said for Life Without Sound. There are still some stand outs, like the refrain of learned hopefulness in “Enter Entirely” and the soaring hook on “Things Are Right with You,” but neither of these hooks come close to touching the heights reached on their previous projects.
But being shortchanged on hooks doesn’t stop this album from being worth the price of admission. On Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothing’s exploration into depth and dynamics are just as profound as their previous exploration into impressionistic volatility.