Published Feb 23, 2021Has there been a busier pandemic band than Cloud Nothings? Within the past year, they have released two remotely recorded full-lengths (The Black Hole Understands and the Bandcamp exclusive Life Is Only One Event), dipped into the archives for 27 digital live albums, reissued an expanded version of their 2011 compilation Turning On, and launched a monthly subscription series. Frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz additionally released two free jazz albums under the name Baldi/Gerycz Duo, and Baldi shared an album's worth of scrapped demos.
And now here they are with yet another LP, this one finished last February. Like nearly everything Cloud Nothings have ever done, The Shadow I Remember combines brawny alt-rock with bubbly, hyper-caffeinated punk. Its short-but-sweet pop songs evoke the project's earliest days, while returning producer Steve Albini once again captures the raw energy of 2012's Attack on Memory.
This means that a few of these 11 songs are welcome if a touch redundant: the giddy surge of "Open Rain" and the burly riffs of "Only Light" are exactly the kind of tunes Cloud Nothings have been churning out for the past decade, and there's nothing much to distinguish them.
Cloud Nothings find their footing when dabbling in new territory: "Nothing Without You" features guest vocals from Macie Stewart of OHMME, whose sweet chorus coos are the yin to Baldi's ragged-throated yang. And The Shadow I Remember's brilliant final run of songs touches on tightly wound post-punk ("It's Love") and abstract synth fuckery from composer Brett Naucke ("A Longer Moon") before culminating in the cathartic, bittersweet finale of "The Room It Was."
It's tempting to imagine what it might sound like if Cloud Nothings took these experiments further and gave their sound a more radical reinvention. As it is, The Shadow I Remember perfectly encapsulates everything the band do so well, and hints at what might be to come. (Carpark)