What separates Cloud Nothings from the indie-rock pack is singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi's ability to create controlled chaos.
The band's third album, "Here and Nowhere Else" (Carpark), takes the unbridled, scruffy joy of the band's last critically acclaimed album, "Attack on Memory," and channels it in a new direction. There still are plenty of roaring guitar solos that gather speed, lots of bash-'em-up drum solos and catchy melodies to scream along with. But it all feels more intense now.
The single "Psychic Trauma" may best capture the album's method. It starts as a more conventional indie-rock song, inspired perhaps by the latter-day Replacements, and then, 45 seconds in, kicks into a new gear with double-time drums and more sinister-sounding guitar and bass, as Baldi abandons his more-measured vocals for shrieks. It's so well crafted that there's nothing to do but get swept up in the mosh-pit momentum.
All that along-for-the-ride energy is a considerable part of Cloud Nothings' charm. Whether it's the power-pop-leaning "Now Hear In" or the rumbling "No Thoughts" or the irresistibly catchy "I'm Not Part of Me," Baldi picks up the torch from noise-pop veterans like Hüsker Dü and Superchunk and carries it to a more streamlined frontier, even as it seems to scream for survival.
Baldi says he doesn't pay much attention to his lyrics, which actually shows throughout the album, as the sound of his voice is just as important as what he's singing. What he focuses on is the feeling, and that's what makes "Here and Nowhere Else" one of the best albums so far this year.
"Here and Nowhere Else"
THE GRADE A
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BOTTOM LINE Adrenaline-fueled joyride through indie rock.