Originally published: NME
Little over a year ago, 19-year-old Dylan Baldi was studying saxophone and audio recording in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Unlike most first year students cry-wanking over Facebook or smoking crystal meth through the arsehole of a cat to cure the ills of their new occupational boredom, Dylan thought more of his time out of class. And unlike most, he put his studies to good use, recording a succession of singles and EPs in his parents’ basement through a single microphone and home computer that would form a rough-around-the-edges demo album in 2010’s ‘Turning On’.
Along with everything else last year that was branded ‘lo-fi’, ‘scuzzy’ or inherently sounded like wasps buzzing around a pint glass, the blogosphere tossed itself dry over the one-man band. ‘Turning On’, however, matched its maker’s constraints: sounding like it had been recorded in an empty Coke can with tin pot instruments, while Dylan sang through a snorkel loaded with backwashed beverage. But for all its technical shortcomings, it did map out a blueprint of latent pop gems – albeit in the form of a Crayola on the back of a fag packet.
Baldi’s debut studio album proper, eponymously titled under his moniker of Cloud Nothings, has turned his kiddy scribbles and mumblings into something more understandable and audible. More than anything, his ear for a hook and a holler filters through with enigmatic detail beyond the distorted debris of white noise that plagued his home recordings.
The result is a fun, frenetic and crisp debut that is more resplendent than his lo-fi scuzz of old. ‘Understand It All’ and ‘Not Important’ burst through the door like overwrought gunmen with jittery fingers demanding attention, as snare drums brutally snap against a fracas of unhinged guitar hooks akin to The Buzzcocks. ‘Should Have’ cuts a similarly bouncy intro to that of The Pixies’ ‘The Holiday Song’, as ‘Rock’ barks and bites like a rabid Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers grimacing over ‘Bloody Sunday’. There are moments when ‘Cloud Nothings’ sounds like your average colour-by-numbers punk-pop record, but more often than not, Baldi is willing to render outside the lines with his own idiosyncratic noodlings and daubs of C-86 era colour.