Friday, June 25, 2010;
Kindred spirits: Times New Viking, Male Bonding, Guided by Voices
Show: With Wavves and Farewell Republic on Friday at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. 202-388-7625. http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com.
It's understandable if listeners are experiencing fatigue from the overwhelming number of bands releasing ragged indie-rock albums featuring various levels of shoddy production. After a while it's hard to distinguish one set of static and tape hiss from another. But "Turning On" by Cleveland's Cloud Nothings is well worth putting up with a bit of a lo-fi mess; it's an album more notable for its songwriting than for its aesthetic.
"Turning On" is made all the more impressive by the fact that it's the first effort from 18-year-old Dylan Baldi, who wrote, played and recorded all nine songs. He has an innate knack for crafting concise pop tunes that have a disheveled charm. "Can't Stay Awake" finds him racing through lyrics and speeding through drum fills but never distracting from the bouncy hook at the song's center. "Hey Cool Kid" floats on a layer of fuzz, but like most of the songs, it reveals multiple layers beyond crunchy power chords and simple drum beats.
Baldi scrapped a planned second album of similar-sounding songs and instead went into a proper studio to record the follow-up. It's a wise decision. His definitive lo-fi album has already been made, and his songs will only sound better with a little more care.
-- David Malitz