Aug 27, 2012 Web Exclusive
Jack Tatum, aka Wild Nothing, released 2010's Gemini while wrapping up his college degree at age 21. It quickly became the Little Album That Could, earning wide Internet praise for its unabashedly '80s post-punk, dream pop, and C86-leaning tunes (not to mention that striking/creepy cover art). Two years later, he's obligated by all of rock history to churn out a "mature" follow-up full-length, informed by a few years of being on the road eating up life's contradictions. For Tatum, that means a retreat not just back into the studio (or bedroom), but into an ideal vision, a sort of dreamland where his version of pop music exists.
Tatum's ideal is a gentle one that can drift right by without revealing its nuances. But the nuance is there in his careful arrangements, thoughtful melodies, and mid-fi perfectionism. It exists out of time, like the work of many of his contemporaries dotting labels like Captured Tracks, Slumberland, etc.—a reclaiming of yesterday's sounds, a reiteration or defense of those jangly chorused guitars, of sweeping synths and unbridled romanticism. And yes, this time around, Tatum is attacking the form with a more "adult" approach, careful in its construction and aware of its context—but somehow eternally youthful in its vision, still lost in the clouds.
Look at the title: Nocturne. Dream pop is the dream that never dies. It's in the whispers and lilting strings on opener "Shadow," the Cocteau Twins-via-M83 atmosphere and visceral yearning of "Through the Grass," the Smiths-style layered guitar-centrism of "Disappear Always," the steady gloom of Disintegration-era The Cure in "The Blue Dress," or the skittering echo guitars and synth pads gracing the title track, wherein Tatum asks, "do your eyelids ever close?" Dunno, Jack—do yours ever open?
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10