When you play with fire, you’re supposed to get burned. But what if you’re careful with fire? Even when handling flames with your most serious demeanor, it’s still possible to get hurt. At least, that’s what can be learned from Cloud’s sensitive and joyous new album. On the band’s nine-track effort titled Plays With Fire, we revel in friendship and sexuality, all the while confronting insecurities head on.

Tyler Taormina is the principal artist behind Cloud, writing and singing on every track, with over a dozen of his friends credited in the liner notes having contributed with instruments, vocals, and field recordings. Taormina has a massive back catalogue, but even to him, this record feels different, even if it is the end of something good.

“We all listened to this record for the first time on February 17th, 2017 in my Los Angeles apartment in the pitched black darkness, no cell phones. The music was blasting loud and there was barely enough room for everyone to sit on the floor of my living room where the cover photo was taken. Something was moving around over our heads in the darkness, it felt right, like an angel of sentimentality. When the album was coming to its close I sensed that something tremendous was ending along with it, but I had no idea as to what…”

This blissful unease defines Cloud. On Plays with Fire, much of the lyrics are somehow simultaneously hopeful and pessimistic, with our narrator hanging out with friends while feeling antisocial or seeking love when he has none to give. “I fell so low,” Taormina begins on the single “Two Hands Bound,” remarking that decisions are easy when there’s nothing left to choose from. In life, the only option is to keep living, so might as well enjoy the dancing and talking and loving while it is good.

The most lyrically dour tracks on the album end up being the ones with the sunniest instrumentation, making the record seem lighter on the surface than it may appear upon further inspection. Listening in different head-spaces may alter your impression of it. Yet this juxtaposition is what make it so compelling, illuminating imperfections with a bright energy. The first verse on “Wildfire” goes: “Hard to see photos of my smiles/ I know if I want to live/ something’s got to give,” yet swirling production lifts Taormina’s vocals up as if in praise of a higher power. It’s odd to pray, but this record makes the feeling less foreign. Maybe this is how we should have been doing it all along.