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On 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else, Cleveland-based four-piece Cloud Nothings took the earnest indie rock of their leader, singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi, and blasted it into hyperdrive. Thanks mostly to the explosive, unhinged drumming of Jayson Gerycz, the songs edged into frenzied pop-punk, brimming with ragged glory. Those expecting more of the same from Cloud Nothings’ most recent album, January’s Life Without Sound (Carpark), will be in for a surprise: Baldi and company dial down the intensity a few notches, focusing instead on the power of the hook. The record’s simple, rock-solid rhythmic foundation and deliberate pacing put Baldi’s voice front and center for the first time in the band’s history, and his melodic sense has reached sophisticated new heights. Baldi’s honest lyrics still make it clear that he’s a midwestern punk at heart, but the cooled-off tempos let his beautiful storytelling breathe—and shine. v