Life Without Sound is an awakening for Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi. Since debuting in 2009 when Baldi was still a Case Western Reserve University student, the indie-rock band has kept its fans around the world at an enigmatic distance.
Featured in Rolling Stone and The New York Times, the buzzy alternative group became known for Baldi’s yowling and talk-singing ambiguous lyrics over fuzzy guitars and clamor of visceral sounds.
But the 25-year-old has grown more confident as an artist. He’s made a conscious effort to dig deeper with his vocals and songwriting, resulting in a fifth record that drops much of the scream-out “life sucks” mystique for a midtempo collection of tracks that showcases finesse and intent.
“It’s only cool to have a veil for so long before you’re not saying anything,” he says. “To have a veil and no purpose behind it, you’re just existing.”
The record gives off a maturity exhibited in a greater awareness of others with songs that revolve around relationships and the world at-large. “It’s just me and what I’m thinking on this one,” Baldi says. The band kicks off a world tour at the Beachland Ballroom Jan. 26 with Life Without Sound releasing the next day. Baldi dissects four songs from his most personal record yet.
“Up To The Surface”: The record opens with a soft piano intro that builds into a “little explosion.” The song flashes back to a dark period when Baldi was living in Massachusetts with a musician girlfriend, who was often away touring. He moved back to Cleveland in January 2016 and felt better when he was with friends and family. “[It] is a literal description of coming out of a long state of loneliness,” he says.
“Things Are Right With You”: What sounds like one of the most positive songs on the record actually started as possibly the saddest. Baldi wrote an acoustic demo for a good friend whose father was dying from cancer. He tweaked it to be more hopeful for the album. “I changed the lyrics to sort of be about a general sense of letting go and [realizing] things are OK,” he says.
“Modern Act”: For the music video, Baldi and his bandmates jokingly dress as senior citizens trying to find meaning on a beach in Lorain and Sachsenheim Hall in Cleveland. Yet, this song carries one of the most crucial lessons of Baldi’s time alone: You need people. “It’s about how important it is to relate to people and find common ground with anyone who is a good and decent person,” he says.
“Internal World”: This track started with the soaring finale in mind. “I wanted the whole song to slowly build toward a large ending,” he says. Baldi says this song helps him admit his faults. “I was pretty introverted and selfish in a lot of ways for a lot of my life. This song is about looking around, seeing what else is going on in the world.”