The title of Cloud's second LP gives us a pretty big clue as to its content. If Comfort Songs was an autumn album (and it was - the first track was literally called Cars & It's Autumn), then Zen Summer is one for the warmer months.
This expansive, mostly gapless album has a hazy, psychedelic sound that, while not a complete departure from what we heard on Comfort Songs, certainly feels a lot brighter and more optimistic than what preceded it. Tyler Taormina is sounding less anxious these days; Comfort Songs, as I mentioned back in early 2014, dealt primarily in harsh truths, whereas Zen Summer gently reminds us that today is big and beautiful and ours for the taking. Ironically, it's actually far more comforting than its misleadingly-named predecessor.
Cloud have gone in a slightly more electronic direction with this new record. Listen, for example, to Night Drive, Zen Summer's slow-building tenth track:
While the compositions collected on Comfort Songs were in no way linear - in fact, several were downright proggy - there was nothing quite like this on album number one. For one thing, I don't remember hearing a single drum machine on Comfort Songs, whereas they're all over the place here.
As much as I've enjoyed listening to Zen Summer over the last week or two, what I'm really looking forward to is listening to it in July or August, when the weather is hot enough to meet the musical challenge that Cloud have issued to old mister sunshine with this release. Here's my plan: I'll wait for a sufficiently warm day, then grab my headphones, go to the park, and lie on the grass while Melting Cassatt does to my ears what the summer sun is doing to the rest of me.
Zen Summer is out today on Paper Trail Records (buy it here).