T'was the week before Christmas when Dylan Baldi found himself seated in a Westlake coffee shop, his first visit home in months. It was but a fleeting break for the 20-year-old Cloud Nothings frontman, who hits the road again this week in support of his band's second album, Attack on Memory, which comes out next week. Cloud Nothings started touring almost immediately after their self-titled debut came out a year ago, and according to Baldi, they "more or less didn't stop" until early December.
Unlike last year's full-length debut and the songs gathered on the 2010 compilation Turning On, Attack on Memory is a bigger, fuller record than its low-fi predecessors. Guitars are loud and ferocious, and Baldi counters the amped-up noise with savage howls of his own. One cut even clocks in at almost nine minutes — triple the length of a typical Cloud Nothings song. One reason: "We got bored playing the same type of songs over and over," says Baldi. "We didn't even play a lot of them live." He hopes this new batch of tunes will have a longer shelf life, especially since there's more room for them to expand onstage.
Another reason for the out-of-the-basement sound is Steve Albini, the legendary engineer who's recorded classic albums by the Pixies, PJ Harvey, and Nirvana. Cloud Nothings made Attack on Memory at Albini's Chicago studio over four days in July, and the album rings with his singular style, which pretty much amounts to letting the band do its thing without any interference — which is why Albini never takes a producer credit on the albums he makes. "He's really efficient," laughs Baldi.
Because of all the buzz that surrounded last year's debut, Baldi and his three bandmates (who are from Medina) spent a huge chunk of 2011 overseas, playing "weird countries like Australia." At home, they fared better in bigger cities with healthy indie-rock scenes than in smaller towns ("We played some really rough shows in the south," he sighs). When he's not on the road, he still lives at his parents' house in Westlake, where he recorded his first songs. Why? Because all that buzz hasn't made Baldi any richer. "We'll be touring until we die," he says. "So this new record is all about challenging us to play something different than before."
HOLLER AT THE HOOTENANNY:
This weekend's Local Artist Showcase at the Akron Civic Theatre gathers a trio of artists who are partly acoustic and kinda twangy. Singer Madison Cummins opens the show, and we really don't know what to expect from her, since her act seems to consist of the Adele and Foster the People songs she likes to sing in her kitchen — at least that's what we get from her many YouTube videos. The Akron trio Unseen Masterpiece recently released their debut album, Couches & Castles, a collection of soulful folk that sounds like a jazzier version of '90s jam-band music. And Kent alt-country singer-songwriter Ashley Brooke Toussant will play songs from her album Sweetheart, which sounds like an old-timey Appalachian porch party. Appropriately, the audience will be seated onstage, giving the show a front-porch sing-along vibe. It starts at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12, available at akroncivic.com.