Wild Nothing popped into my view at CMJ 2010; Jack Tatum’s dream-pop project played a lot of shows and then some more during that festival, which made it easy to see them at least once. I was impressed not by any charisma or theatrics at the show I checked out. Instead, I was impressed with how they made atmospheric music that managed to still catch the ear. This was shortly after their debut LP, Gemini, was released, and it bode well for their future.
Fast forward to this year, and we’ve got their sophomore effort, Nocturnereleased by Captured Tracks. Better, more thorough, and longer than the debut, this second showing from Tatum proves that he’s more than just woozy guitars and songs about love. Recorded in a studio as opposed to at home, Nocturne sounds full of life, taking hints from fellow North Atlantic outfit Real Estate with regards to memorably mellow compositions. Songs like “Midnight Song” and “Disappear Always” should be the soundtracks to many a drive through the reaches between cities, when plans are being made and adventures being imagined.
One complaint that has arisen about Wild Nothing is that their live charisma is nonexistent, as if they’re almost too shy to be there. That problem does not translate to the record, as every song sounds like a whispered secret between best friends. It’s intimate music, songs for romantics who perhaps are too shy to get up in front of a crowded bar to do karaoke. What the world doesn’t know is that these are the people who will sing along with every word while tapping along to the drum beat as state lines approach and are left behind.
There is one problem with this trip down Serenity Lane: Nocturne tends to be a bit indulgent. At 45 minutes, one would think that they are in the sweet spot for modern albums, but Wild Nothing’s music is impactful with regards to what’s not there just as much as what is. Certain songs, such as the title track and “Paradise”, carry on for about a minute longer than is wise, forcing those more impatient to hit “next”. It’s a minor complaint because even those songs have exhilaratingly simple moments, like the new-wave inspired intro to “Paradise.” But when you’re lost in an album nothing can be as jarring as wanting to break the rules of sequencing.
A future exists for Wild Nothing as a standard-bearer for a new wave of dream-pop; while Braids may be off doing their Canadian sexual fantasy music thing and Beach House takes on arena-sized jams, Tatum has the chance to ground his swirling romanticism into very real grooves. Nocturne is a step towards that goal, and one can only imagine what a second studio-recorded album will sound like for the band. It would appear that, after two albums and an EP, he’s found the way to combat cynicism and remain within the palpable realm of love and camaraderie.