Alternative / Singer-Songwriter
RIYL: Julien Baker, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Courtney Marie Andrews
In the words of Rob Gordon: “What came first? The music or the misery?” For Detroit’s Cloh, its possible that they came at the same time. From Cloh’s Bandcamp page she says, “I know this album is mediocre at best. I’m new to this and have few resources. But hey, everything starts somewhere.” While she is right that everyone does have to start somewhere, her record Nothing Gold is anything but mediocre. In fact, it has reached this writer’s top five singer-songwriter records in 2017.
Wrought with darkness, and a sparse, minimalist quality, Nothing Gold commences with a somber piano track, “Brave” that feature’s Cloh’s lower vocal range, that rises and falls, breaking in just the right spots. Further, the track’s piano composition is simple, but resounds through the soul. The follow-up “When It Rains” follows a similar formula, but leans toward a somber note as well, likely reminiscing about a harsh break up. In fact, one might posit that all eight songs ruminate about longing and broken hearts.
That said, those eight songs make a hell of a first impression. Cloh sings with the knowing air of someone who has seen a lot of life, and the muted optimism of someone who’s aware that there is so much more yet to see. Each song is a powerful blend about itinerant lives, delicate hearts and consistent determination of people (or Cloh themselves) searching for something they would have a difficult time articulated. Nonetheless, Cloh’s songs are chock full of emotion and her lyricism paints sonically dramatic pictures for her listeners.
While she favors acoustic guitar and piano, Cloh also uses an electric uke on some tracks. The instrumental accompaniments are unobtrusive and carry some deep-pocket rhythms. We hear that throughout the record, but it is prevalent on songs like “Dreaming,” and “Simplicity.” Further, the songs echo the folk and country-rock of the early 1970s (minus the pedal steel), and Cloh seems to know all the moves. There is a sense of loneliness throughout the record.
Ultimately, if you are looking for a record that encapsulates the autumn and winter months, this would be for you. That’s not to say that these songs are about the holiday season, but instead, about the darkness contained in each year’s latter months. There are spots of self-reflection in some passages, and therapy in others. Nonetheless, as stated previous, Cloh has made their way into this writer’s top five singer-songwriters this year, and it’s this record that solidifies that.