When the opening line of an album is ‘Misery soaked you’, you know you’re in for a heartfelt, passionate and sombre listen and so it goes on the debut album ‘Comfort Songs’ from New York-via-Boston-via-LA resident Cloud (known to his parents as Tyler Taormina).
Gravelly vocals and sparse instrumentation feature on the first track ‘Cars & It’s Autumn’ which is wonderfully fractured and fragile, but also veers into post-rock territory after a sudden stop just before the 2-minute mark. As the piano grows in stature, the instrumentation picks up and veers into post-rock territory while also retaining a dream-like quality. This fantastical approach continues throughout the brilliantly titled ‘Authorless Novel’. With broken-down instruments floating around glacial and brassy sounds, this is a gentile but hard-to-ignore song that is full of Youth Lagoon atmospherics and the soothing soul of My Latest Novel.
Taormina has a very unique voice and there are plenty of dark themes for him to explore through the length of this long-player. With a hint of delicacy throughout, there are also traditional storytelling influences shining through with the subjects broaching everything from martians to broken hearts and mortality: ‘Picture me dead on the floor’ being just one startling lyric. ‘Boys See Mirror’ contains the line: ‘I know it’s fucked up, but I wish you the worst’, the bitterness delightfully resonating against the Fanfarlo-style jangly guitars and the angst fully at the forefront as lines are spitted out with venom. Strings are also a major part of the album, and these are often offset by wailing vocals and classic literature references: ‘We clicked our heels a thousand times’.
‘Blurry & Bright’ slows the tempo down a little and is another song that works as the ideal soundtrack to a lonely night in as it revolves around something that has gone terribly wrong and the struggle of getting over losing a loved one: ‘I call you mine’. With a rhythmic and relentless style that recalls Deerhunter’s more accessible moments, there is also an element of 60s pop bands underlying throughout. Another reference point is Mew, and this is apparent no more than on the 9-minute plus ‘Desperation Club’. A slow-burner that is heavy on the piano and then full of glitchy effects before it expertly stumbles without ever quite reaching the big finish you may be expecting – perfect for a song that is heartfelt and full of hopelessness.
Passion runs throughout this record and there’s a world-weariness that belies Taormina’s tender 21 years of age, but this is a concept that will resonate with many. Slightly off-kilter and with a downbeat approach, it’s to Cloud’s credit that this album is so quietly exhilarating and, at times, simply spine-tingling.