The ideal artistic vision for punk-pop lovers of the early 2010s has been realized in “The Shadow I Remember.” Three years after their last release, “Last Building Burning,” Cloud Nothings finally made a loud return to the musical world. This newest album is, to put it simply, a big deal for the band and the brand.
“The Shadow I Remember” represents 11 years of touring, as well as the band’s return to their earlier sound — and even their first studio recording. The album is a comforting change in pace spotted with unsettling questions about life. Singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi lays it all on the line and showcases a personal existential crisis throughout these 11 intense tracks. The instrumentation is also as guitar-filled and hard-hitting as ever. What more could longtime fans and newcomers ask for?
The first track on the album, “Oslo,” is an ode to the confusion of life’s ever-changing ways and the oh-so-annoying passing of time. It has a strong, alternative opening with a hopeful piano progression that eventually fades into somewhat hopeless lyrics. If listeners indulged in this release while running, they might start breaking personal records. The pent-up energy dripping from every line in the song is a surefire way to simultaneously raise the heart rate and contemplate life’s greatest mysteries.
In all, it is surprising that a seemingly paradoxical album flows so effortlessly. “The Spirit Of” continues the trend of repetitive emotional releases and general loudness. It’s shockingly easy to picture a crowd of punk fans headbanging to this unapologetically aggressive track.
If listeners have ever browsed the discography of alt-J, the song “Nara” on “The Shadow I Remember” has a similar sound to the quiet, English band. This song's position halfway through the album is a refreshing break from the fast-paced wave of emotion that is the rest of the new release.
However, none of the tracks mentioned above could match the unparalleled media attention directed at the release of “Nothing Without You.” The song's debut garnered an impressive amount of excitement for this album, and it also features a spontaneous collaboration from Macie Stewart of OHMME. On the album's editors' notes on Apple Music, Baldi said, “I had the chorus in my head, but I just can't sing that high. So Macie luckily lived right around the corner from the studio, and she was able to pop in.” This striking feature adds a sense of lightness to the album’s indie-rock potency.
“The Shadow I Remember” also reaches heights of meta songwriting and existentiality that elevate each track to a new level of relatability. “Sound of Alarm” is a song about Baldi’s new, rigorous practice of songwriting, which he tried to do every day for quite some time. He screams, “I need to make time for me.” This simple line feels like a complex self-realization and a simple push to just be. Directly after this track, “Am I Something” wonders about just that – What is humanity? During a time of uneasiness and stand-still, this song speaks volumes. These relatively short tracks are bound to leave listeners waiting and wondering in a mesmerized trance.