Album reviews: Cloud Nothings and Mac DeMarco

cloudnothings

Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

Why are you sitting here, reading this review, when you could be listening to Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings’ outstanding second release as a full band?

I praised and praised the group’s previous record — 2012’s Attack on Memory — to pretty much anyone who’d listen. I’ll be doing the same with this record: frontman Dylan Baldi and company have tightened their focus and ironed out their kinks, resulting in their most aerodynamic and limber album yet. It’s also their best.

Whereas Attack on Memory was all atmosphere, Here and Nowhere Else is pure rocket fuel. The trio barely slows down to take a breath throughout the album’s breakneck half hour running time, and each song seems to hit harder than the last, culminating in album closer — and the group’s best track to date — the already-coronated Song of the Summer “I’m Not Part of Me.”

This isn’t to say the album doesn’t start strong. Early standouts “Just See Fear” and opener “Now Hear In” are pure adrenaline, teetering on the tightrope between pop and punk that Baldi has built an entire career on treading. We’re not talking Blink-182 here; unlike most pop punk, Here and Nowhere Else has real teeth, and isn’t afraid to bite.

Look no further than Jayson Gerycz’s outstanding drumming for evidence — fans of Attack on Memory will agree that his addition to the band is the best thing that’s ever happened to Cloud Nothings, and his work on Here and Nowhere Else will surely silence all nonbelievers.

Gerycz holds court throughout the album, but his crowning achievement might be his complete freakout at the end of “Psychic Trauma,” the closest the band has ever gotten to the hardcore punk they’re so evidently influenced by.

An early contender for album of the year, Here and Nowhere Else is a significant maturation for a band that was already pretty fucking great to begin with.

Mac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

What the fuck is a salad day? I don’t know. I don’t care. Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco’s slow-burning, slackadaisical indie rock doesn’t invite that sort of navel gazing undergrad philosophizing. It’s made for car radios, beach parties, and the iPods of the überhip. And that’s just fine.

DeMarco has never been one to inspire overwrought think pieces or long-winded discussions on the state of “music today.” It’s a bit of a shame, because there’s real emotion to this album, even if it’s sunken beneath several layers of shrugged-off ambivalence and bleary, sunburnt melody.

Just like DeMarco denied he smokes pot — though one listen to Salad Days will have you seriously doubting that claim — he similarly subverts expectation by being an unexpectedly deft, creative songwriter.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s hard making music sound this easy. The groovy gleam of “Let Her Go,” the carnivalesque flirtatiousness of “Passing Out Pieces” — DeMarco’s greatest strength is making his songs feel lightweight, almost effortless, even as it’s clear that each one has been tweaked and perfected far beyond a first draft stage.

It does get a little stale: though Salad Days is about as simple and straightforward a listen you’ll have this year while retaining any semblance of indie cred, the tradeoff is a distinct lack of gravitas. It’s all good fun, but little in the album’s half hour runtime really makes a strong impression.

Which, of course, is just fine; not every album has to be Kid A. But it’s worth noting that, if DeMarco has a truly classic record in his back pocket, this ain’t it.

Still, Salad Days is well worth a listen or two. The Johnny Marr jangle of DeMarco’s guitar is the closest sonic approximation of a sunny day I’ve heard all year — for those of you who can’t wait another three months for a Vancouver summer, look no further than this LP.

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