A smart and sophisticated album existing in its own pop moment.
Jude Clarke 2012-08-20
Still in his early 20s, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum already has one acclaimed album in his back catalogue, in the form of his 2010 debut Gemini. A home-recorded word-of-mouth hit, its appealing taken on the sounds of the 1980s is now consolidated in this second release, as the songwriter further expands on his palette of laid-back moods and downbeat grooves.
A thread of references to night time and dreams runs through the aptly-named album which contributes, as do the underplayed orchestrated strings and synths and the soft percussive beats, to a downbeat, restrained atmosphere. Tracks have names like Shadow or Midnight Song, and refer wistfully to the moon, sing of “all the blind dreams” (Disappear Always), or ask “do your eyelids ever close?” (Nocturne).
Tatum’s vocal fits perfectly, languorously, with this mood. Its smoothness is only occasionally broken up by a switch to a slightly gruffer lower register, as on the title track, where it adds a little of the grit that is generally lacking elsewhere. At times the music shows a tendency to sag mid-track, the extended and rather nondescript instrumental segments in Nocturne and Rheya, for example, rather overstaying their welcome. Elsewhere, though, these instrumental sections are actually a highlight, repeatedly striking melodic gold – as in Shadow, Midnight Song and Counting Days.
Only Heather sees Wild Nothing at their most uncomplicated, the song’s straightforward a-ha-alike vocals and lovelorn declarations (“she is so lovely she makes me feel high”) marking it out as an obvious prospective single. Conversely, Through the Glass is a complex, cleverly constructed track, all the more satisfying for its tricksy blend of hazy, slightly askew rhythm, airy synths, Spanish guitar and vocal swoons that recall not only the aforementioned 80s Swedes but also, in places, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Shins.
With a veneer that might, on superficial listening, make this music itself appear superficial, Tatum has nevertheless produced an album that, despite its obvious glances back at the past, is smart, sophisticated and of its own pop moment. Definitely worth getting out of bed for.