In “St. Elmo,” one of the more evocative tunes on the debut album Where We Meet by CLOUDLAND, a classic rock rhythm gets new life in a post-hipster world free of the bloated self-righteousness frequently found in similar singles out this year. The dreaminess of the song’s harmonies winds up being a progressive feature you’ll hear throughout Where We Meet’s tracklist, and when it’s offered at a slower pace in numbers like “Restless,” the romantic side of this band is unobscured by even the strongest of their guitar licks. There’s a dignified feel to their confessions that isn’t found in the gushy but equally honest pop music I’ve reviewed this summer, and whether it be the juxtaposition of bright melodicism and curt self-awareness in “Sunday Afternoon” or a wordless expression of meditative thought via “Sunday Evening,” these players never sound like anything other than old school pros.
“Coming Back” is probably the most experimental track in Where We Meet’s second act, primarily because of the bluesy kick in the percussion and how it completely conflicts with the lazy blush of the guitar. It takes about fifty seconds to find its perfect synchronicity, but when it does, the tension it had to expel just to get to this point feels more essential than it initially did. The title track flirts with a likeminded hybrid of alternative rock themes on the instrumental side, but I would rank its lyrics as the most literate on the record. There’s nostalgia here, but it’s coupled with such a brassy emotionality that nothing sounds like a throwback.
The hesitance at the onset of CLOUDLAND’s melodic pummeling in “Overthinking” both encapsulates frustration and throws a giant middle finger in its face through a flood of cathartic riff-rock that ties the group’s aesthetics to hard rock more than it does pop in a single instant. Next to “St. Elmo,” it’s a surefire single that could rock the mainstream just as much as it ever would the underground, and not because of a frilly cosmetic presentation. Its grooves aren’t as lumbering as those in “Perfect Timing,” but heaviness is a big role player in this album’s most powerful moments, both as narrative reinforcement and as a reiteration of this band’s solid footing as a rock group.
In both “Walking Away” and “Lights,” shades of The Jam can be heard quite prominently on the surface of CLOUDLAND’s composing style, and if they can find a way of channeling this punk-bred energy into the creative assault they’re already refining quite nicely here, I believe we’re going to get some of the best alternative rock to come out of Georgia since the heyday of the Athens scene. Where We Meet is a captivatingly simple but thoroughly blue-collar rock LP that doesn’t pose with a lot of indulgent props simply as a way of masking rookie compositional skills unprepared for the primetime spotlight. It’s the product of several years’ worth of dedicated growth and creative collaboration now resulting in a smart pop/rock sound fans of alternative music serious and occasional alike should be able to appreciate the same.
– review written by Matthew Rowe