Cumulus finds a way up with downcast northwestern indie-rock | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Cumulus finds a way up with downcast northwestern indie-rock 

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click to enlarge Cumulus

Cumulus

Sarah Cass

Seattle singer-songwriter Alexandra Niedzialkowski, who records and performs as Cumulus, understands the mystique of the style of indie rock that emerged from the Pacific Northwest a generation ago and was perfected by the likes of Death Cab for Cutie—the kind of sweetly sentimental rock songs whose easygoing, weightless melodies belie the mountains of emotion hidden within the notes. And Niedzialkowski weathered her share of hurt in the period leading up to Cumulus’s forthcoming second album, Comfort World (Trans), which gets its name from a billboard for a shuttered mattress store she spotted a couple hours out of Seattle. She and her boyfriend of four years broke up, she got fired from her day job, and—if you choose to take the lyrics to the album’s title track literally—it would appear that she spent a good deal of time stoned, alone, and sleeping at odd hours. Her plaintive vocals offer an empathetic shoulder for anyone struggling with a large and cumbersome problem; her whip-smart arrangements and spry performances suggest the best way out of a bad situation is to keep moving despite (or because of) enormous pain. On the album’s most aggressive song, “Tough Crowd,” Niedzialkowski confronts her faults and bruises against a roaring guitar, and when she sings that she’s “a fuckup” it’s a celebration, not a curse.   v

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