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Studio Milwaukee Session: Cloud Nothings

Jen Ellis

It’s a risk to do something different. Maybe you alienate people. Maybe you open yourself up to criticism. Maybe you fall squarely on your face. Seven albums into their run as an indie-rock stalwart, Cloud Nothings decided to do something different for album number eight — sorry, things, plural — and embrace the risks.

On a wind-whipping Friday afternoon at Radio Milwaukee HQ, as Cloud Nothings ripped through a set featuring tunes from the recently released Final Summer, all we saw were the rewards.

The new LP earned that adjective in all kinds of ways: new label (Pure Noise), new producer (Jeff Ziegler, who’s worked with Kurt Vile and The War On Drugs) and a sound that certainly comes across as new compared with what came before — call it “newly refined.”

The album art for "Final Summer."
The album art for "Final Summer."

Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen put it nicely in his review of the album, pointing out that, “In the past, ‘ambition’ on a Cloud Nothings song meant playing faster, stretching out for seven minutes, or doing both. That doesn’t happen on Final Summer. But the spiffier production sharpens the edge rather than dulling it, highlighting subtle flourishes that distinguish the deeper cuts from any random track six from a previous Cloud Nothings album.”

It’s always nice to have that context. But as soon as Dylan Baldi, Jayson Gerycz and Chris Brown blasted their first notes from the stage Friday, nobody in the room — or, considering the wonderful noise level, standing several blocks away — seemed too concerned about what was and wasn’t “new.” It was bright, booming, smile-inducing rock.

After opening with a couple tracks from the new album, Baldi gave his take on the refresh and the band’s decision to veer away from the “three or sometimes four of us in a room playing together” approach.

“This one, we just kinda wanted to do a little more textures and layers to it and make it sound a little different than the last six or seven records have sounded,” he explained. “That was kind of the main thing — just go in there and have our different friends work on different parts of it and do different mixes of things and get a lot more people and more sounds involved.”

He also dove back into the band’s recording history and shared a java-fueled memory of the late Steve Albini, then jumped forward to a more recent studio connection at the wedding of illuminati hotties’ Sarah Tudzin (who mixed the new album).

Listen to the interview and full set using the player at the top of the page, pick up Final Summer on Bandcamp or at your local record shop, then head over to our membership page so you can join the live audience at our next Studio Milwaukee Session.

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Set list

  1. “Running Through the Campus”
  2. “Silence”
  3. “Final Summer”