Of all the things he has to do before leaving on a three-month tour, Dylan Baldi is doing his taxes. It might seem odd that the Cloud Nothings frontman is concentrating on his deductions, and not the winter he'll spend on the road, but he likes to plan ahead. Consider Attack on Memory, his group’s Steve Albini-engineered third album, out January 24 from Carpark Records. Instead of rushing into the studio after the underground success of 2011’s self-titled album, Baldi took his time making a record that sounds thoughtful -- or as thoughtful as a nihilistic, completely blistering rock album can be.
The eight-song album is a collection of moody, driving songs that are a departure for the band, as though its members had been stuck in a van with only a tape of the most brooding Wipers songs to keep them company. There’s nothing to read into, though, says Baldi. Just because his songs aren’t always upbeat doesn’t mean he’s some sort of tortured musician stereotype. “To write a lyric that is dark, you have to feel that way more than maybe 10 minutes while you’re writing the song but it doesn’t have to be your entire life—unless you’re some old country singer living your songs,” he says. “For me, it’s not necessarily that I’m a depressed person, I was just in the mindset to write those words.” If anything, the dissonant sound of Attack has to do with opening up the songwriting process to the entire band: “Fall In” is an upbeat enough number with a Bay Area punk energy and a sing-along factor that is sure to make it a crowd favorite at live shows. A new writing method, after all, isn’t an entirely new band.
“There are a couple of songs, like ‘Stay Useless’ and ‘Cut You,’ that are similar to the older stuff, but some of the songs are different,” Baldi explains. “We were consciously trying to do something different just because we’d gotten kind of bored with playing the same type of song over and over.” The band will hardly have time to get sick of these new songs -- Baldi says that the group will attempt to write its next record on the road while touring with the Italian band the A Classic Education. He hopes to release that record this summer. All this makes the 20-year-old songwriter sound pretty responsible. But when asked if he’s going to be cashing in a substantial return this year, he laughs. With an exaggerated sigh, he says, “I will owe this year.”
Cloud Nothings' Attack on Memory is out January 24 via Carpark Records. Listen to the album below: