4. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
In Mike Roffman’s April story about Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi explained the angst ratio present in his then-brand new album, Here and Nowhere Else: “There’s a sort of faux-existential ‘que sera sera’ thing going on. But that’s just where my head is at now.” In a society full of endless status updates, the trio’s insistence that they’re not telling you all they’re going through makes the non-conformist burn of their indie punk that much more effective. Instead of spelling out specific issues, Cloud Nothings capture existential dread with the filter of plausible deniability that anybody going through those feelings would put up to keep others from realizing their struggle.
Despite that negation of emotion and the howled intensity of the music, Here and Nowhere Else is full of sing-along hooks and fist-pumping rhythms. It’s an approachable album, but the emotions and messages entertained are kept at an arm’s distance. Baldi opens “Pattern Walks” by describing some vague moonlit anxiety on top of Jayson Gerycz’s hellfire drumming, then repeats the song’s title as some sort of mantra. Does it mean anything? Is it just a coincidence that it sounds like he’s shouting “padded walls?” It’s not that he’s not making any connection at all: “I can feel your pain and I feel alright ’bout it,” he repeats on “Now Hear In”.
But after sitting through the pain and weight and disconnect for 28 minutes, closer “I’m Not Part of Me” offers some respite, though still demanding an identity that can be just Baldi’s rather than something to be defined and refined by the outside world. Sure, there’s denial, and plenty of nots, and the pains of the past haunting him, but there’s also a separation from those pains and a hope for the future. If he’s going to be not-something, “not you” is pretty direct. He’s himself, and that in and of itself is enough. He’s “moving toward a new idea.” That new idea is maybe not so new to the world, but it’s new to him and simple and beautiful and obvious: “I’m learning how/ To be here and nowhere else/ How to focus on what I can do myself.” After portraying the swirl of confusion and the demands to be identified by the world and filtered into a specific category, being here, now, and yourself is about as specific and powerful as it gets — even if Baldi wants to convince you he’s just shrugging. –Adam Kivel