Wild Nothing is the solo vehicle cum four-piece band of young singer-songwriter Jack Tatum and his accompanying trio of backers. Despite forming in 2009, Wild Nothing has already released a full-length debut, Gemini, and an EP, Golden Haze, that together have established Tatum and Co. as one of the freshest and most endearing ’80s revival acts of the young decade.
Tatum’s talents are obvious: He has a refined sense both of how to construct a memorable pop song and how to dress it up in inviting instrumentation. Full of lyrical, melodic guitar lines wrapped in reverb and synth, his arrangements recall some of the pensive joys of The Cure, The Smiths and New Order. They undoubtedly hold great appeal for listeners whose contemporary tastes lean toward the dreamy soundscapes of Beach House, Washed Out or Youth Lagoon.
Wild Nothing’s accomplished first two records set a high standard. Its third major release and second full-length album, Nocturne, meets but does not exceed expectations. Although Nocturne is another slick and seamless collection without any significant missteps, it’s also slightly more muted. Opener “Shadow” sports a pleasant enough guitar-riff substitute for a refrain, but it appears to have been offered as the first single largely because of the absence of other immediate standouts. Although the record is filled with more-than-competent pop, the arrangements are so cohesive that it’s easy to drift along from song to song lost in the echoes.
Aside from the lead single, “Only Heather,” “Nocturne” and “Counting Days” are the closest things to highlights. Like the best of Wild Nothing’s recordings, “Only Heather” centers on a majestic guitar loop the intricacy and immediacy of which marvel the listener in the manner of The Smiths’ “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” or The La’s “There She Goes.” “Nocturne” and “Counting Days,” on the other hand, are (at least theoretically) more danceable numbers propelled by ethereal staccato riffs.
Even those numbers don’t quite jump out at the listener like the melodic crossfire of the laser-esque guitar work on previous highs such as “Chinatown” or “Golden Haze.” But if on Nocturne Tatum sometimes seems to be going through the motions, it feels ungrateful to complain. It’s hard to think of a more reliable, compulsively listenable formula for new wave guitar pop romance than the one that Wild Nothing has so quickly perfected.
By Benjamin Ewing