Cloud | Comfort Songs
by Lee Adcock
If you’ve heard the entire stream for Cloud’s Comfort Songs by now, then you won’t need me to convince you to buy a copy. However, sneak peeks like these can easily be overlooked – trust me, I’ve left many a preview unfinished myself. This happens. But, alas, dear reader! I write this review not as a stoic critic but as a wooed fan. There is a purity to this record, a spiritual aura evoked by the austere, antique piano lines, mingled with Tyler Taormina’s highly expressive, utterly relatable vocals, that should resonate with any Animal Collective connection that has been thrown around quite a bit across the blogosphere, but I hear the homely hodgepodge of Mercury Rev, too, sobered at times by aching slow tempos
Methinks it’s fitting that the album begins on ‘Cars & It’s Autumn’. Sure, it’s not the most bombastic or lively opener, but it welcomes us into the band, who sing together as old friends in an endearingly messy ballad. Furthermore, we’re led to a gentle and lovely coda, a piano tripping lightly across a rolling bassline embraced by a golden swell of horns. Ahhh, and through an idyllic night of frog songs, this reverie drifts directly into the humbling, stirring ‘Authorless Novel’. ‘Wish Little Fish’ aims for a mellower vibe, a happy crossing of shuffling drums, wistful vocals, and a liquid piano line that trickles over the sleepy guitars.
With a surge of guitar and pounding piano, we are swept into ‘Boy Sees Mirror’ – and, oh, what a fantastic track. It’s a film in itself, a dynamic and buoyant number, with a searing conclusion of anguished cries. More glory ensues in ‘Stomach Pit, which borrows the melody of Amazing Grace for a viola-kissed, horn-laced slow waltz with a guitar solo that soars to the stratosphere. ‘Frére Jacques and Me‘ also draws on some musical inspiration – this time, from the nursery rhyme mentioned in the title – but not so blatantly as you might think, weaving the familiar theme subtly into the leisurely vibe; indeed, the flowing coda at the last minute of this song could only be Cloud’s own invention.
And ‘Blurry & Bright’. Ahh. So refreshing. Halcyon riffs and sparkling harps trickle like a babbling brook. And who could not melt at that wonderful line: “You’ll always be mine in a nostalgic way?” (There are so many fantastic lines in this album, by the way. Your new philosophy on life could be hiding within these lyrics.) One does wonder, though, why that silly chorus is tagged along in the end – but, eh, why not? Such is youth.
Thankfully, for all the airplay ‘Mother Sea’ has received in the past few weeks, it doesn’t stick out as the obvious standout – however, the single does mark the end of the lighter, breezier material. The final stretch is a heavy one, starting with the ¾ swan song of ‘A Light Wish Weighs A Lot’. No piano this time – a chummy brass section carries this hopeful tune along. From there, we drift into ‘The Desperation Club’ – and the listener slowly realizes that this sounds familiar. Yes, it’s ‘Authorless Novel’, but not as we remember it – Cloud drag out the tune, drawing out the ambling bass and morphing the flowing piano line into a solemn serenade.
This could’ve been an apt way to close the album – that is, to reach a full circle, and seal what’s already been a thoroughly cohesive track list – but Cloud save the most astonishing (and unexpected) surprise for last – a sultry, jazz-informed number called ‘Halley’s Comet’. And it’s really wonderful – the brushed snares and stand-up bass lend an authentic, down-key air, and Tyler delivers some very smooth verses. It’s a definitive closer – once the band cascades to a conclusion, you feel the album exhale. The grand journey – and what a journey it’s been! – is over.
I love this LP. I do. Why? Because Cloud speaks to me – me, and any other lost soul who’s ever felt the angst of standing in the crossroads, looking for a path and a companion to confide in, and finding no easy answer, no shoulder to lean upon. In Comfort Songs I find a time for reflection, a confirmation of life and its wonder, and a sense of belonging – to whom, I’m not certain, but to someone. And I know, years down the road, this will remain a landmark album for me, with just the same resonant power. Hopefully, dear reader, you’ll be moved, too.
Comfort Songs is released on August 5th, via Audio Antihero.