While the word 'progressive' when used in the context of rock and roll can sometimes take an altogether worthy, self-indulgent kind of meaning, for nineteen-year-old Cleveland resident Dylan Baldi it's an ample representation of his personal development as both a songwriter and arranger. Despite having been making music designed for public consumption little over a year, his aural scribblings under the Cloud Nothings moniker have gone from being the hidden secret of the bedsit underground to a genuine contender for one of 2011's albums of the year, which in a lo-fi scene burgeoning with creativity these past eighteen months or so, is no mean feat.
Last year's 'Turning On' compilation, which pulled together Cloud Nothings embryonic single and EP releases, already hinted at the possibilities which existed for Baldi, and unsurprisingly this self-titled debut delivers on every level.
Having taking giant steps to disassociate himself and his band - Cloud Nothings are to all intents and purposes a four-piece, for live shows at any rate - from the lo-fi tag they've become saddled with, Baldi hasn't just upped his game where the songs are concerned, but also roped in a producer capable of turning his vision into reality. Enter Chester Gwazda, a man whose studio expertise has seen him work with artists as diverse as Steve Reich and Dan Deacon. Here, Gwazda's influence is apparent right from the outset, his obvious sheen ensuring the likes of 'Understand At All' and 'Not important' carry a knowing swagger to go with the youthful innocence that still marks 'Cloud Nothings' as being designed and implemented by a bored but overtly subversive teenage mind.
What makes this record more heart-warming is that Baldi seems to have garnered most of his inspiration from an era guys of his age really shouldn't know about. If the opening couplet sounds like a C86 tag team bout as The Soup Dragons go head to head with The Fat Tulips while Talulah Gosh officiate, the fuzzy punk fuelled 'Should Have' rivals The Groove Farm's 'The Best Part Of Being With You' as one of its generation's most understated pop songs. Baldi sings 'And now I know that its much better' over a melody that's one part Weezer, and another like The Pastels, yet due to the savvy production never delves into shambolic territories.
Elsewhere, 'Forget You All The Time' shows off Baldi's sensitive side, while the chirpy paeans to adolescent love 'All The Time' and 'You're Not That Good At Anything' take a similar route to the long-forgotten but equally as exciting Senseless Things back in the latter's 'Postcard CV' heyday. 'Rock' meanwhile, clocking in at just over ninety seconds gives current Brit faves The Vaccines a run for their money in the Beach Boys on cheap speed stakes.
Overall, 'Cloud Nothings' is the album anyone familiar with Dylan Baldi's formative musings could have hoped for, and even when during 'Been Through' its creator's indigenous screams declare, 'Nothing's working', the hyperactive thrust of insatiable melody coursing through the song's veins tells a different story. And rightly so, because the sound of teenage insecurity never sounded so exuberant.