It’s impossible to suppress a smile sometimes at the seemingly endless new genres that are invented (mostly, let it be said, by music journalists). Yet every now and again, a genre stumbles upon the perfect name.
Take ‘dream-pop’ for example. One listen to a Wild Nothing song is like stepping into a dream – and not one of those strange, unsettling dreams where you wander around a shopping precinct naked while carrying a goat’s head. The sound of Jack Tatum’s one-man band is hazy, calming, and – yes – dreamy.
It’s a sound that was first unveiled on the promising Gemini album a couple of years ago, and for Nocturne, Tatum’s pretty much picked up from where he last left off. This time round though, there’s an added confidence and swagger to the songs – albeit a swagger refracted through a very sensitive and fragile prism.
There’s a cool and collected aura to Wild Nothing that’s very much in vogue at the moment – think Cliff Martinez‘s soundtrack to the film Drive, or Twin Shadow‘s most recent album – and Tatum’s vocals are often as light as air. On occasions, it does all threaten to drift away on a cloud of its own etherealness, but more often than not, the album hits the emotional nail right on the head.
Only Heather, for example, drifts in on a beautiful guitar refrain, a gorgeously uncomplicated ode to the titular Heather (“only Heather can make me feel this way…everyone tells me I’m under her spell”) which is pretty much tailor made for lying in the grass with a loved one. The title track treads similar turf, all jangly guitars and blissed out vocals, while Paradise’s stately synths and weirdly funky guitar lick hides a surprising emotional depth.
For all its surface lightness, there’s more to Wild Nothing than meets the ear. Repeated listening reveals some pleasingly complex arrangements, specifically on Through The Glass (which beautifully mixes a gently plucked acoustic, those all-pervading synths and a haunting vocal) or Midnight Song, which with its aching, yearning sensibility, could have easily sat on the last Wild Beasts album. It’s all the more impressive when you consider all the instruments (except for the drums) have been arranged, played and produced by Tatum himself, barely out of his teens.
It all adds up to a big step up from Gemini which still, intriguingly, hints at even better to come. At times, the low-key, downtempo atmosphere may threaten to overwhelm, but Nocturne is an album that both solidifies and enhances Wild Nothing’s growing reputation.