If there’s a polyamorous rock band working, it’s Cloud Nothings. The band flirt with emo navel-gazing, math-rock exactitude, and punk militancy. But, their physiognomy is patriotically indie rock; an avid conviction in the expressive power of guitars, and the enduring constant in their ever-evolving philosophical engagements.

Absconding the lo-fi fuzz of his formative solo stuff; from 2012’s Attack on Memory onwards, an observable trajectory containing these engagements has materialised. That seminal, acutely slacker record, posited the existential value in wasting time and doing nothing – for choosing lazing on the couch over cluttered iPhone calendars and calorie counting. On the other hand its follow-up, 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else, is an indissoluble avowal of individualism and independent thinking. If there’s a gracenote of camaraderie between these schools of thought, it’s their shared affirmation for impudence, for truly not giving a fuck about what people think or say. With the trudging urgency of sudden piano chords, ‘Up To The Surface’ ushers in Life Without Sound’s shade of self-possession; a shade sagging with doubt rubber-stamped by a pre-solo wail of “alone,” a term semantically opposed to the band’s triumphalist egoism. It’s quaintly fraught.

Music writers, myself included, rush to ascribe relevancy to albums, but Cloud Nothings consistently preclude such interpretation. By being conspicuously apolitical they are – in their own unkempt style – selfless, all capacious allusion. Dylan Baldi still zealously worships the self, but worries such solipsism is realistically inviable in an intrusively public society, and injurious in a world pleading for compassion. Could Cloud Nothings – the princes of apolitical punk – be reflecting outwards? In an interview with Colombus Alive last year, Baldi revealed “In general, I think more people are becoming aware of how to treat the world, so I’m just falling in line, you want to be more of a global, useful citizen.”

Rather than a deviation – or indeed backpedalling – from the Cloud Nothings constitution, it’s a corroboration. More than firm self-contentment, Baldi aspires for unfiltered equanimity between himself and the world, and vice versa; which he argues is based in social consciousness and being “a global, useful citizen.” Chronic individualism may be punk and self-fulfilling, but it’s not exactly healthy. Baldi proposes that generosity and charity – in the abstract index as well as the physical action – fundamentally feels good, and moreover delivers good. It’s not a product of millennia of Judeo-Christian hegemony – or a socialist/liberal construct – but patently human nature, to be a thoughtful and conscientious person. Baldi, for his sake, is divided. ‘Sight Unseen’ is remonstrative of (his preceding?) myopic inwardness; monolithic closer ‘Realize My Fate’ self-imposes being “something bigger”; while ‘Things Are Right With You’ promises that Baldi “feels lighter” for his newfound extroversion.

Lead single ‘Modern Act’ emerges as the lieutenant of this internal debate, displayed as a Socratic dialogue in cargo shorts. The anxious refrain “I want a life, that’s all I need lately/I am alive but all alone,” discloses his craving for substance and intent, which collides with his tenacious cynicism over the external, ‘real’ world. “Whose war is this, what god is that?” - Baldi documents the struggle to overturn his impulse for disdain into sympathy.

The album zenith ‘Enter Entirely’ arpeggiates regimentally – the minutest of accruals – towards a moving euphonic fireworks show. With clear, purposeful guitars and plaid-shirted “ooos,” it’s the best Dinosaur Jr, Superchunk and Built To Spill song since the 90s. Yet, it’s also the climactic intervention of Baldi’s progress, self-deprecating and weary on his parochial youth; “I had a lot time alone[…]/watching all of the hours with a bottle of wine; what a line.” Finally, “Moving on but I still feel it/you’re just a lie to me now,” resounds as a fractured farewell, magniloquent but measured.

A life without sound is a lifting of the veil; for sound can proffer escape, comfort and inspiration, but it obfuscates the formidable necessities of the present. It’s oxymoronic to suggest that a record could successfully advance such meaning while infested by hooks, yet Life Without Sound bears itself with moral clarity and resolve while rocking damn hard.