By reuniting with producer Steve Albini for this new release, Cloud Nothings look to the past while continuing to pursue new avenues with The Shadow I Remember.
Nearly one whole decade ago, Cloud Nothings enlisted Steve Albini to engineer their third album, the project mostly a solo act with a touring band at that point. Here, in 2021, Dylan Baldi’s long-standing post-hardcore project has maintained a consistent lineup for a bit now, putting out records with some regularity over the last few years, culminating in this latest, The Shadow I Remember. Albini has been brought back into the fold, here to produce for the first time since 2012’s Attack on Memory. That album brought Baldi’s vision for the Cloud Nothings project into sharper focus, moving it away from its more overt pop origins, burying his catchy melodies and hooks amongst harder, noisier instrumentation. Tethering this newest release to that one via Albini’s production creates a spiritual link between the albums, setting them up to be read within each other’s context. Inevitably, The Shadow I Remember isn’t the dramatic career reorientation that Attack on Memory was, but there’s a poignancy inherent to Baldi returning to these specific production stylings and compositions, even if the Cloud Nothings’ aesthetic hasn’t strayed too far from what was originally codified on that earlier work.
The songs on The Shadow I Remember are songs about aging, time passing, and all the uncanniness that comes attached, though delivered with no less vigor than what’s characterized their discography up till now. Baldi is savvy in his songwriting though, and never really allows these big themes to do more than provide a general framework to build the album around. As such, The Shadow I Remember might be most immediately taken as wistful and angsty, the vibe clearly declared in album opener “Oslo,” which works the phrase “Am I older now or am I just another age?” over and over, into a chorus. Baldi is only this direct sporadically throughout the album, and even then, it’s clear that he isn’t addressing us from one strict perspective (he’s said that this particular song was written with Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st in mind). Either way, The Shadow I Remember remains an excellent showcase for Baldi’s songwriting and pop compositions, pulling in various mundane inspirations — domestic living and quarantine boredom are significant touchpoints — and spinning them out into heavy, evocative jams. Many years deep at this point, Cloud Nothings still manage to find new, worthy directions to take their music even as it has begun to loop back on itself aesthetically.
Publisher as part of Album Roundup — February 2021 | Part 1.