There are certain records which manage to replicate, musically, serotonin release. Then there are records that contextualise this physical rush within the throws of human experience: friendship, love, memory and the swathes of melancholy that embrace our lives like a sleep. Cloud’s followup to his 2013 debut, Comfort Songs, falls dreamily into the latter category. Made with friends, family and collaborators (including Infinity Girl’s Nolan Eley), Plays With Fire balances sophomore maturity against Tyler Taormina’s playful, DIY take on relationships and the various emotions we sometimes channel and sometimes repress.
Guided by the tousled tones of Taormina’s silvery voice, the record flips open a palette of moods that vary between brooding, atmospheric folk (‘Happer’s Laugh’), stripped-back, brass-layered ballad (‘Oh, So Juvenile’) and shimmering, kaleidoscope rapture in the manner of Animal Collective or Passion Pit (‘Wildfire’). Reflective, lullaby tones (‘Heartfluttered’) recall the pastel-hued fancies of Yo La Tengo or Mazzy Star’s ethereal chorale (‘Mary Goes Mad Again’), while confessional, bedroom-pop lyrics are given an exuberant spin into quirky, pizzicato guitar on ‘Disenchanted’: ‘now it’s just me in the dark / now it’s just the dark in me.’
Amidst the occasional dash of irony is a record of genuine tenderness, clocking those moments of unexpected sublimity which adorn our lives: ‘when she’s taking off her dress / it’s your chance to perpetuate the human race’. Exploring the patches of brightness and shadow flickering between inside and outside, self and other, Plays With Fire is at once the experience of lying on your bed, mid-afternoon, lamenting the end of summer; but then with percussive, swirly tracks like ‘Two Hands Bound’, it’s also the spark that’ll have you dancing in the mirror again by the time it gets dark, waiting for the next epiphany.