The Cloud Nothings' clamorous noise-pop generated significant buzz in the past year, vindicating 19-year-old Dylan Baldi's decision to forsake education for the pop muse. It all started when the Cleveland native wrote a few tracks that fit neither his band Neon Tongues nor his solo guise, Cat Killer. He posted the tracks on MySpace as the "Cloud Nothings."
One track -- the dreamy, undulating "Hey Cool Kid," which recalls early Pavement -- attracted the attention of Bridgetown Records founder/musician Kevin Greenspon. When Greenspon offered to put out a Cloud Nothings cassette, Baldi didn't have anything else written, so he spent the next two weeks writing and recording songs.
Baldi's decision to drop out of Case Western Reserve University came a few more weeks later, when Baldi was invited to open in New York for Woods and Real Estate -- two acts whose lo-fi coattails Cloud Nothings hopped. But the show conflicted with a show by his college concert band: If Baldi didn't play sax for the concert, he would fail the class. Wth his parents' blessing, he quit school to make music full time. He's since gone to Europe and landed tours opening for Fucked Up and Wavves.
Earlier this year, Baldi signed with Dan Deacon's Carpark label, which released Turning On, a collection including that early cassette EP and the 7-inch singles Baldi's released this year. Pitchfork gave the collection a 7.9, saying, "[Baldi's] strength lies in always giving straight-ahead pop mechanics license to spazz out." Meanwhile, his buoyant "Another Man" was used as the music bed in an Internet trailer for GQ's recent Glee photo shoot. Talk about au courant!
Turning On comes swaddled in lo-fi thrum -- a natural outgrowth of his initial home-recording style. But Baldi's gift for melody rises to the top of fuzz-laden tracks that owe debts to '80s alt-rock acts like Beat Happening and Hüsker Dü, as well as the winsome guitar ring of Wedding Present and Television Personalities.
Stereogum rated Baldi's forthcoming self-titled January release as one of 2011's 50 most-anticipated albums. Recording in a studio for the first time, Baldi promises a cleaner, even punchier sound, trying to distance himself from the burgeoning lo-fi twee movement.
"I feel like there isn't that much separation between all the bands," Baldi told The Washington Post. "Their records are all like 10 pop songs or whatever and you listen to it once and then you just forget about it. I don't want that to happen."
The way things have been going, Baldi shouldn't worry.
Cloud Nothings with Oberhofer and Legs Like Tree Trunks. 9:30 p.m. Thu., Jan. 13. Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $8. 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net