I read something by a comedian who said that in order to seem funny you just have to say the third thing you think of; the first is what everyone thinks, the second some people will have thought, but the third, the third will be yours, and it'll be abstract enough to catch people off guard enough to laugh at it.

For the most part you can apply that rule to writing about music, or at least to the writers who want to appear to be smart and don't just type the first that comes to them, the difference is that most music writers have a limited list of adjectives which means that by the third thing we all sound the same. I don't think anyone listens to anything and thinks, oh that's aching beauty right there, or it's like X on acid, it was a difficult album, a seminal album, their sophomore album. You read these things all the time but you never really say them aloud, or that one time you do say them aloud you cringe internally so hard that you don't even realise that you're clutching your chest.

Cloud is such an honest artist that I wanted to write one thing that didn't have any of that bullshit in it but it's harder than you think. A couple of minutes into album opener 'Fly Into The Mystery' I'm scribbling 'new found Krautrock tendencies' amongst my notes, then I'm scrubbing it out and writing 'Krautrock is basically shorthand for a pounding rhythm section that doesn't go anywhere', before etching that out until the paper ripped. On a new sheet I wrote 'it's basically a fucking crescendo that is built around a staccato melody' and smiled, because before the first song had finished I'd already written three bullshit things.

So, Zen Summer is Cloud's difficult sophomore album.... On his debut album Comfort Songs it felt like Tyler Taormina was processing and dealing with a lot of shit, which really only became a comfort to anyone when you sang or screamed along with him, those songs weren't made to passively listen to. You had to relate, associate your own meaning, and use them to purge. Zen Summer is a little older and wiser, still filled with personal stories, but the emphasis has changed with the vocal a little lower in the mix. The recording came at a pivotal time for Tyler: "Zen Summer was recorded in the Practice Room, Long Island during my very last summer living in my parent’s home in NY. To me, the end of the recording process meant the end of childhood. At the summer’s close, I’d be packing up my belongings and hitting the road to California for a new life of filmmaking in Los Angeles."

You can hear that sense of finality as you listen to the album, that you've reached the end of this chapter, there is nostalgia for everything that has happened entwined with the loneliness you can only understand once you've outgrown your surroundings. Where songs previously felt skeletal, you could hear each part and know where it began and ended and you could feel the gaps in between, these songs arrive fully fleshed out, the gaps filled and they are buoyant for it. Having used Comfort Songs to process, Zen Summer is almost comfortable, safe in the knowledge that you get to move on and away. As Tyler says "The Zen Summer namesake actually refers to a year prior when I lived and worked in the mountains of Italy at a meditation center, and had my first (and only to this day) experience with drugs at David Weld’s Nature Preserve with my closest friends."

Knowing that he left and had a formative experience but had to return and live for another year makes Tyler's comments on the recording process all the more poignant, it makes it seem almost like a victory lap, although the songs are too weighed down by self awareness to feel victorious: "Thinking back to the recording sessions I see the solitude of a humid east coast summer day, and me cooped up inside with my MDR’s on, encapsulated in my own little world. And then the opposite end, of course, Mike coming over to throw down the acoustic guitar work for Tastes Bad, Casey and I talking about the passing of time in between takes of his beautiful electric guitar parts on many of the tracks. I can’t forget the choir of girls I had brought in, some friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while, my little sister and a few of her friends, all getting together to read the gigantic cue cards I made for Rainbow Road. After that, I’m pretty sure we drank some wine and went in the swimming pool -- the perfect end to a summer night. Then of course, friends who I wouldn’t see all year that hail from different parts; Boston, Florida, Philadelphia, Venezuela even -- they’d fly out for the weekend and I’d ask, 'wanna record on the new album!?'"

They say that your eyes are windows to the soul for a reason, you may be smiling and having fun with your friends, but inside there is a whole narrative playing out that you may never explain to any of them. To me, that is how the album sounds, like you know the fun is fleeting, the friends will leave, the wine will run out, the birds will start singing, the sun will come up, you'll put on your jacket and walk off into the unknown - and you're ok with that. I think Tyler himself describes it best: "The recording process mirrored the content a bit in that it’s the juxtaposition of our horrid and necessary loneliness and those holy moments when we actually come together. It’s your favourite space in the world, but all the people have left it, save those few sacred instances. Most of this album was recorded in complete silence.”

Zen Summer is out next week, you can buy it from Paper Trail Records or Bandcamp or from one of those global institution websites that take a big cut of everything and don't pay any tax. When you listen to it you'll realise how much Cloud has developed between his two albums, the range of sound has broadened but instead of sprawling into extravagance, it has become more focused and defined. It's exciting to think about just how good Cloud can get at this trajectory.

Listen for yourself:

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