Music Reviews
Final Summer

Cloud Nothings Final Summer

(Pure Noise) Rating - 8/10

With each record they've released post-2014's critically acclaimed Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings has always kind of been around. Simply existing while the world continues to turn for any musician must feel like a dagger straight to the heart, as if all the effort of making new material but receiving a more muted response feels like a futile endeavor. While that may be true, frontman Dylan Baldi has stayed true to himself by switching from his main project to his more experimental endeavors interchangeably. At some point, all the goodwill they've given to the countless bands they've influenced would return to them. Thankfully, this might finally be their moment.

Final Summer, the Cleveland rockers' first release since 2021's The Shadow I Remember, could never be considered a breakthrough by any means. Having a consistent track record will do that to a tunesmith like Baldi: too smart at writing a melody but too stubborn to follow a supposed innovative sound that could bring back more attention to his band. Instead, he chooses to soldier on with more hook-oriented riffs that merge his noisier and poppier instincts. Maybe these songs don't sound different, but he's committed to doing what he does best, giving them a renewed sense of vigor.

These 29 minutes sure fly by quickly, but for a sustained minute in the title track opener, Baldi tricks us with a synthy build. And just like that, he kicks into gear with a fast motorik groove before it shifts into his usual charging guitars. “But I need to be happy, with what I've got for me,” he declares with assurance before he moves on to the next track and does it nine times over. Not a moment feels wasted. In the past, Baldi's songwriting tendencies would stretch past the six and seven-minute mark. Here, whether it's on the muddy noise punk of Daggers of Light or the furious angular riffage of Mouse Policy, Baldi serves each song with efficiency and confidence.

It's not like Baldi has gotten close to reaching the highest highs of Final Summer. He's occasionally reclaimed some of that spirit, especially in 2018's unsung Last Building Burning, which benefitted from some of his most raw and vulnerable performances. But that extra oomph was missing in the production, which in recent Cloud Nothings albums was woefully inconsistent. If anything, they would muffle the intensity that he brings to his live performances.

Working with producers Jeff Ziegler (Kurt Vile, A Sunny Day in Glasgow) and Illuminati Hotties' Sarah Tudzin, the latter of which mixed the album, Baldi brings a necessary jolt that has simply been missing from his past lo-fi productions.  “And if you're trying to save me/know I am trying the same thing,” Baldi cries on On the Chain, reclaiming his autonomy as he ratches the chorus with an anthemic sweep. The more melancholy Running Through the Campus sounds nostalgic and refreshing all at once, with Baldi flexing his tried-and-true indie rock muscle as if he's the only one committed to even trying.

From the moment it starts to its very last note, Final Summer comes rich with gargantuan hooks that make you feel alive. His more hopeful outlook might have inspired this creative renaissance, but Baldi unintentionally emphasizes the simple pleasures of a rock song with an earnestness that shadows his complex songcraft. Baldi is well aware that it's no easy task on Silence, in which Baldi reasons, “If there are no ideas/Do you have any reason to learn?” The resolute answer is that, yes, there is always something new to discover in every creative opportunity. And for the first time in quite some time, he's savoring the final result.