Cumulus began as a confessional art project of singer/guitarist/songwriter Alexandra Niedzialkowski (nee-jul-KOFF-ski). With the addition of childhood friend Lance Umble on guitar, Leah Julius on bass, and Ryan Sprute on drums, Cumulus became a proper rock and roll band. Alex’s songs are a study in juxtapositions: delicate but powerful, specific but universal, naïve but knowing, and above all personal despite being steeped in the classic pop themes—love, loss, youth, wonder, disappointment, joy. In Umble, she has a counterpart expanding her songs’ unguarded feeling and simplified solo arrangements into a complex sonic universe teeming with harmonic possibility and throbbing with noise. Sometimes gentle, sometimes utterly the opposite, the waves of sound coming from Umble’s dexterous, muscular guitars form a protective layer to surround Niedzialkowski’s hushed voice—not to drown it out, but to let it be heard all the more clearly. Seattle musician Leah Julius, who they met at a Bruce Springsteen tribute show, of all places, offered to play bass for Cumulus despite never having played the instrument in her life. They happily accepted, which meant Julius had to learn the songs and the instrument all at once. This crash course became the glue between the disparate elements at the band’s core. For reference: I Never Meant It To Be Like This places Cumulus squarely alongside contemporary acts like Best Coast, The Dum Dum Girls, and Tennis, while reaching back to a not-so-distant golden age of indie pop when good bands had hits, and the knack for wide-readership hooks (Elastica, Veruca Salt, Juliana Hatfield) and loud guitars (Yo La Tengo, My Bloody Valentine’s first album) didn’t preclude a heroic dose of delicacy (Heavenly, the Delgados, Velocity Girl, Tiger Trap). All of which is to say you could almost mistake Cumulus— who appear, let’s face it, pretty adorable—for twee if they didn’t rock so commandingly.