Is there any stranger way to welcome in the new year than with an excellent low-fi album? Half of the industry today is populated by over-produced, dance-rock sellouts, and the first legit album of 2012 comes out as raw and natural as a Titus Andronicus or Yuck live concert. Cloud Nothings may not be played anywhere near the popular music crowd though, a fact quite disappointing because Attack on Memory is simply a really great album, worthy of some true recognition.
Of course, fans of the low-fi genre or really anyone in the indie scene won’t find Attack on Memory to be as much of a surprise as it is a well-engineered progression for Cloud Nothings as a whole. Already on a three-year-long album-a-year cycle, this group’s ambition is only matched perhaps by Portugal The Man’s. And likewise, Cloud Nothings seems to get better with every release. With Attack on Memory, the instrumentation has been produced with less garage-y fuzz than in 2010′s Turning On and less perceivable distance than last year’s self-titled. Instead the guitar-work here is layered and at times more patient, given equal prominence with sole creator Dylan Baldi’s vocal work, appealing when presented in tandem but even more welcome in a lengthened musical interlude during “Wasted Days.” Overall, the production value is a bit random at times but appeals to Cloud Nothing’s general demographic which appreciates that sort of varience.
Where Cloud Nothings will gain or lose its audience though is with Baldi’s wailing voice, reminiscent of punk and equatable with more recent acts which regard perfect pitch less necessary than confidence and energy. The album is best eased into with an easier, catchy track like “Fall In,” otherwise opener “No Future/No Past,” will lose potential listeners as it’s a dunk in the water comparatively. Those who are familiar enough with punk or the less whiny side of emo should have no problems enjoying his presentation throughout Attack on Memory, and may find cause to look backwards at his quite impressive discography.
Thematically, Attack on Memory follows the thread of mediocrity and uselessness, a topic increasing in popularity among the indie/punk scene although no less potent in execution. “No Sentiment” rings with simple truth as Baldi repeats “We started a war/Attack on memory/No easy way out/Forget everything.” Fourth track “Stay Useless” begins channeling some simple 90′s roots by forcing the guitars way back during the verse, but then quickly rocks out a chugging chorus of “I need time to stop moving/I need time to stay useless.” The tracks are mostly short, typical of the genre, but they leave enough substance behind to provoke thought and repeat listens.
Attack on Memory’s only real flaw may be that it in a way embodies the traditional low-fi effort rather than pushing its boundaries as a genre. It’s certainly a progression and high point for Cloud Nothings, yet similar to Yuck’s self-titled album last year, there’s little outside of strong song crafting to separate this effort from the rest, to make it truly a grand album. That being said, every single song in Attack on Memory is catchy and fun to listen to, so this deficiency is easily and willingly forgotten after a full listen. Definitely an album to check out for anybody interested in new and engaging music.