“I get old so fast,” Dylan Baldi sings at one point on Cloud Nothings. It makes sense that he’s feeling the change from adolescence to adulthood particularly strongly: Baldi has been so prolific in such a short time, cranking out several EPs and an album’s worth of music within a couple of years, that it’s easy to forget that this is his official debut album. These tracks are more polished than what came before, but only to a point; unlike some lo-fi bands who graduated to unrecognizably slick full-fledged albums, Baldi cleans up Cloud Nothings' act only enough to get his songs across more clearly. But even if this album was produced, mixed, and mastered by professionals, there’s still an old-school, lo-fi vibe to Baldi's music. Like Male Bonding and Best Coast, Cloud Nothings excel at noisy rock that cloaks deceptively innocent, heartfelt melodies. Baldi is young enough to get away with lyrics as simple as “I don’t understand love/And I don’t understand at all,” while punk putdowns like “Not Important” still cast him as an outsider, even if he’s no longer in high school. Though the half-baked experiments that filled out Baldi's EPs are missing this time around, quickies such as “Heartbeat” and “Rock” show that he still has room for off-the-cuff outbursts. Though Cloud Nothings is more focused than his previous releases, Baldi still goes in lots of different directions, from the pure power pop of “All the Time” to “You’re Not That Good at Anything”'s snarling garage punk to the surprisingly sweet and optimistic “Should Have.” Meanwhile, songs like “On the Radio” and “Nothing’s Wrong” serve up bouncy punk-pop without the machismo that style developed in the ‘90s and 2000s. However, Baldi's best songs have a thoughtful undercurrent that separate him from the noise pop pack, whether it’s “Forget You All the Time”'s heartbreak detritus, or “Been Through”'s empathy. The way he blazes through so many songs in such a short space is a little overwhelming, but Cloud Nothings is a solid step forward for Baldi as he gets ready for what comes after teenage wasteland.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares