Music

Cloud Nothings: Turning On

The exciting lo-fi pop band compiles all of its EPs together on this release, but you only really needed the first one.


Cloud Nothing

Turning On

Label: Carpark
US Release Date: 2010-10-12
UK Release Date: 2010-10-25
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

There's something undeniable about a good pop song. Cloud Nothings know how to write them. It may just be the lo-fi quality of the recording that, like a back-dated tintype photo, makes these songs seem classic, but even so, they work and they're good. These quick and noisy pop songs continue in your head like melodies you've known forever and will always be singing.

Cloud Nothings is really one guy, Dylan Blandi, a 19 year-old from Cleveland (though he put together a band for touring). Last year, he released a home-recorded eight-song EP called Turning On followed by another EP and a split cassette. This year's Turning On is a compilation of all of these releases on his new label home, Carpark. The original EP was so good on its own that I'm not sure this compilation is an improvement except in terms of completion. The addition of the newer songs disrupts the consistency of the sound and doesn't make improvements.

The success of Cloud Nothings is an interesting mix of opposites: the best songs have a fast punk urgency that meets up with a lazy, laidback delivery, like if a pop punk band got stoned right before going on stage. The opening track, "Can't Stay Awake", is emblematic. Over a forward marching guitar riff, Blandi sings about being unable to stay awake. The verse is syncopated, like it's falling down where it stands, but then the chorus continuously builds up to regain energy. The lo-fi fuzziness that washes over all the instruments, especially blending the guitars and vocals, adds to the hazy mellowness of the recording while also providing an edge. This may seem paradoxical, but Cloud Nothings finds a way to sound both edgy and calm at the same time.

The original closer of the Turning On EP, "Real Thing", repeats the same fast-paced formula as "Can't Stay Awake". The riff is jerky, almost post-punk, except that it ties itself to an easy singalong chorus. Blandi often structures his songs so that the verse has an almost chant-like quality that vamps until the overwhelming payoff of the chorus takes over. "Hey Cool Kid", one of the tracks that was floating around the Internet earlier this year, shifts this formula a bit. The verse has an interesting chant, but during the chorus the vocals and guitar break down rather than peaking with a consistently strumming noise. Being a one-man recording project of course admits imperfections, especially in time. Perhaps this is why the songs sometimes sound like they are falling off to sleep, but the looseness is excusable when the song writing is so tight. There are no extraneous parts.

The sound of the first eight songs is cohesive without being repetitive, which is a common problem with power-pop and punky lo-fi bands. Cloud Nothings often reveal a debt to '50s and '60s classic pop tunes, and these little retro tweaks are nice, but when they overtake the song it's no good. This is the case on the first song to come after the original EP, "Strummin" -- the weakest track on the album. The fuzzy mess that made the sound warm up to now is relegated to the vocals alone. This retroactively forces you to think that the lo-fi quality was only an added effect. When the guitars are clean and only the vocals are distorted, Blandi sounds like Julian Casablancas singing for Weezer. This is exactly what happens: the song ends with Blandi crooning his way through a refrain in a Strokesy manner, really compromising his sound.

Luckily, the sound of this one song is dropped for the remainder of the album. The next three songs, "My Little Raygun", "I Am Rooftop", and "Morgan", return to the noisy mix of fun pop that worked well with the first eight tracks, with a slight tweak. Blandi now has a bit of a Jello Biafra ripple into his voice. The songs are silly; their infectious abstract pop brings to mind the punky pop of the Rezillos. The last song, "Another Man", finally returns to the sound and song style that made the first eight tracks so good. It's a good sendoff for the compilation since it reminds you what Cloud Nothings do so well.

The fact that Cloud Nothings wander around in their aesthetic over the course of these tracks suggests that Blandi is still searching for his voice. The problem is that he seemed to find it right away and the little differences aren't improvements. What makes Cloud Nothings one of the best of the lo-fi pop bands around right now is the commitment to writing good pop songs and nothing else. Blandi's version of this is more interesting than a band like Woods, who use falsetto and folk pretensions to try to disguise as different what is nothing but good pop music.

The band -- i.e. Blandi -- is young and started off just right. The danger Blandi runs is that he may find himself too enamored with his own songwriting and clever amalgamation of pop hooks (à la Weezer). It's hard to capitalize on early promise. Although pop music allows for development, it is ultimately beholden to a simple form. Now, the question is whether Cloud Nothings will stick to a consistent and good sound for the full length expected to appear this winter.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image