Album Review: Cumulus - I Never Meant It To Be Like This

Album Reviews
Anna McClain

The debut album, I Never Meant It To Be Like This, from Seattle's Cumulus has been a long time coming. After establishing themselves in the local music scene playing alongside fellow Northwest artists like Wild Flag, Gold Leaves and Pickwick, honing their sound and piquing fan interest, the trio launched a fundraising page in early 2013 in order to finally present their inaugural album to the world. With a similar bittersweetness to bands like Best Coast or Veruca Salt, songwriter, singer and guitarist Alex Niedzialkowski, with Lance Umble on guitar and Leah Julius on bass, succeeds in not only communicating the band's identity in this introduction but also in weaving a cohesive story over the course of the album.

Mimicked in the morbidly attractive I Never Meant It To Be Like This album cover is the sugar-coated toughness of Cumulus' sound. The debut, produced in Anacortes, easily layers Alex's wholesome, girlish vocals with confident, crashing guitar riffs. As cliche as it sounds, the album absorbingly relates a story of young love gone by. The lyrics convey the love affair simply, with a dramalessness that is refreshing to hear in reference to the overwrought subject. Niedzialkowski begins the recollection by singing "do you remember when young meant invincible." The first few tracks are filled with the naive excitement of a fresh beginning, appropriate for the band's recent emergence.

While the album's first captivating track, "Do You Remember," was released as a single, and marked the band's first music video, Cumulus truly find their footing with the album's third track, "Middle." Niedzialkowski's voice acts as much as an instrument as a vehicle for expressing the song's message. The vocals are amplified by the intensity of the guitar, building up to an solid minute of drum pummeling and guitar thrashing at the four minute mark. Cumulus knows how to strike the right balance between loud and soft, slowing things down at one moment only to magnify the force of their walls of sound. The guitar line shares the spotlight once again with Alex's vocals on "Ocean Song," progressing hand in hand to create an engaging piece. The story arcs at the melancholy, muted "Wanderlust," where Alex's vocals emulate that of Yukimi Nagano (Little Dragon) or Lykke Li. This cloudiness (pun intended) is carried through until the end of the album, enduring the variations in volume and culminating when naiveté becomes rawness in "Night Swimming." The 10-track album feels like a quick listen, though each track is over three minutes long, coming full circle in the tenth song by echoing Alex's wide-eyed vocals from "Do You Remember" and redefining youth from invincible to unsustainable.

I Never Meant It To Be Like This is out now on Chris Walla's Trans Records. Cumulus is currently on tour throughout the U.S. and will return to Seattle to perform the Neptune Theatre on November 9 with their tourmates, The Lonely Forest. Check their Facebook page for other dates.

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