The Shadow I Remember, the ninth album from Cloud Nothings is not an easy one to pin down. It’s punk with plenty of gentle and heartfelt moments, pop with blistering bursts of aggressive emotion, a reflective singer-songwriter piece with plenty of introspection akin to journal entries. Perhaps it’s all of it at the same time, as the album can go from solemn to bouncy at a moment’s notice. Oftentimes even incorporating all of these elements in subsequent sections in a song. One thing’s for sure, life in the pandemic has changed every artist in the last two years – some fold while others find an invigorating spark in their creativity. Cloud Nothings clearly enjoys the latter.
From what I gather, it’s the opening track “Oslo” that sparks a connection from everyone who’s listened to this album, and for good reason. The line “The world I know is gone away”, might have been written pre-lockdown, but it’s a serendipitous line that ignites strong emotions during these years – the kind of thought that could get you thinking during sleepless nights. Top that with “Am I older now, or just another age?”, a line delivered as upfront and as poignantly should at least stir even the coldest of hearts. And it’s in these moments that The Shadow I Remember shines, moments like in “Am I Something” which echoes the previous sentiment with the line “Does anybody out there really need me / Am I something good? / Or just an unremarkable”. A sentiment that might as well be a litany for any creative person working today.
The music that serves as a backbone for these emotions doesn’t slouch as well. On “Am I Something” this means an unrelenting rumbling of blurry drums with clamoring riffs that mimic a troubled mind. In “Sound of Alarm”, a song that talks about finding time for your own self to know which direction to take, the tempo is cool and composed, with a rhythm section that’s still as tumultuous as the many anxieties that involve this decision.
All in all I could describe this record as heartfelt and unrelenting. “Only Light” exemplifies this with its jagged verses that contrast its gentle chorus like a breath of fresh air after a treacherous climb. In “It’s Love”, this idea manifests itself in a song about accepting the difficulties of life – all condensed into a minute and a half of fierce energy.
The Shadow I Remember is one of the most dynamic and interesting pop punk albums of recent years. A whirlwind of emotions with never a dull moment in sight. Exhilarating in its exultations and sobering in its thoughts, a record so easy to recommend.