"On weekends in college I would go home," Dylan Baldi said, "and I would just use that time to record songs."

"On weekends in college I would go home," Dylan Baldi said, "and I would just use that time to record songs."

Baldi had always made home recordings growing up in Westlake, an affluent suburb on Cleveland's west side. Those weekend sessions during his first semester at Case Western were par for the course: one man and one microphone with GarageBand cued up.

Per Ohio indie rock tradition, Baldi's guitar pop was both insanely catchy and shrouded in layers of hiss and hum. He uploaded a couple of the songs to MySpace under the name Cloud Nothings and went about the business of freshman year. Soon, the e-mails started trickling in.

First was Bridgetown Records, a one-man record label out of California, offering to release Baldi's first EP, "Turning On." Those eight fuzzy, infectious tracks were on the market before Baldi hit winter break, eliciting a smattering of hallelujahs from the next-big-thing blog corps.

Next came a message from Todd Patrick, aka Todd P, New York's most industrious underground rock promoter. He offered Cloud Nothings a gig at Brooklyn's Market Hotel opening for Woods and Real Estate. Baldi had never heard of Todd P, but he was very familiar with the Brooklyn buzz bands. This was legit.

Baldi scrambled to put a band together, and Cloud Nothings played the high-profile gig, their first, in December 2009. Response was positive. It quickly became clear that Baldi would not be going back to school.

The ensuing year was a blur of tour dates, recording studios and one glowing review after another. Baldi and friends were thrust instantly into life as touring musicians.

"It wasn't hard," Baldi said, "it was weird."

Respected electronic and experimental label Carpark Records reissued "Turning On" with bonus tracks and funded Baldi's recording sessions for Cloud Nothings' first studio album, due out Jan. 25. The self-titled release eschews Cloud Nothings' lo-fi origins in favor of a clean, crisp R.E.M. jangle.

"I would have loved to have recorded 'Turning On' with nice things and made it sound good, but I couldn't," Baldi explained. "Then Carpark offered to fund the studio and this producer, Chester [Gwazda], so I went ahead and did that."

"Cloud Nothings" still sounds unmistakably Baldi, but his expanded sonic palette and growing confidence as a songwriter recalls a vast spectrum of anxious guitar rock - everything from The Buzzcocks to The Replacements to Jimmy Eat World to New Bomb Turks. The album and its ensuing promotional storm has Cloud Nothings poised for an even bigger and busier 2011.

That agenda begins with a tour opening for Oberhofer, including a stop at The Basement on Friday. Locals Way Yes round out the bill.