Wild Nothing

Life of Pause

Captured Tracks

Feb 19, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Bookmark and Share


Counterintuitive as it may seem, Life of Pause, Jack Tatum's third full-length as Wild Nothing, is a work that makes quite a fuss over sounding less fussy than the records that preceded it. Perhaps sensing that he'd reached an absolute dream pop peak with 2012's immaculately produced and composed Nocturne, Tatum has begun struggling against his perfectionist instincts, resulting in an album that's willfully rough-hewn, scattered, and label-resistant.

In an especially anti-pop move, Tatum has declined to put his best foot forward. Though the Life of Pause starts strongly with "Reichpop," which plays like a hybrid of the titular composer and late-period Talking Heads, most of the record's highlights are confined to the second side. This curious sequencing gives the impression of artistic growth in real-time, as if Tatum is finding his footing as he goes along (the late stretch of "Alien," "To Know You," and "Adore" is particularly noteworthy).

Equally enamored with arty synth rock, vintage R&B, and lush electronic soundscapes, Life of Pause works toward a genre-less flow that builds on the advances of 2013's Empty Estate EP. The edges are spikier, the rhythms funkier, and brass and strings play an unexpectedly prominent role.

In the past, Tatum's words tended to work best as placeholders chosen to fit his melodies, but here he is clearly exploring a more personal approach to songwriting. Individual lyrics fail to stand out, but a defined perspective accumulates track by track. If there's a through-line, it's a worshipful stance toward women complicated by the compromises and hard facts common to adult relationships.

While Tatum's attempts at candor are sometimes at odds with his sonic ambitions, this tension lends Life of Pause's strongest moments an unexpected layer of emotional immediacy. The feelings that drive these compositions may be forced out front, but they're far from clear-cut; "Alien" is a pulsating brew of dejection and lustful awe, "A Woman's Wisdom" celebrates the darkly sensual, and "Adore" finds small-scale personal dramas engulfed in an epic sweep. It all amounts to the messiest, least consistent Wild Nothing release to date. It's also the most alive. (www.wildnothingmusic.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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