Jack Tatum’s work as Wild Nothing is often grouped in with the countless other indie pop acts that make music in the new wave/shoegaze/dream pop vein. Tagging his music in such a way isn’t unwarranted, it does sound like it’s coming straight from a UK studio in the 80’s, but whereas many other similar artists make songs that are easy to forget, Tatum’s compositions are deeply personal and deliver a lasting emotional punch. This is pop music as he sees it. His combination of ethereal vocals, woozy instrumentation and pop melodies isn’t anything new, but Wild Nothing’s 2010 debut Gemini was and still is eminently pleasing to listen to.
Following up such a great first step is a tall order to say the least, but Tatum proves he’s up to the task with Nocturne. The idea is the same this time around; take all the best parts of 80’s British pop music and remake them in the image and likeness of the 2010’s.
Lead single and opening track ‘Shadow’ kicks things off with a bang, putting Tatum’s melodic skills on full display. It features an uber catchy guitar riff and some of the finest vocal work he’s done yet, and fans of Gemini will quickly warm to nostalgic pop gems like ‘Paradise’ and the title track as well. A more upbeat and as yet unseen side of Wild Nothing comes through beautifully on ‘Only Heather’, ‘Counting Days’ and ‘This Chain Won’t Break’; three tracks that were certainly featured in a John Hughes film weren’t they?
The missteps thankfully are few and far in between. ‘Through the Grass’ and ‘Rheya’ are fine on their own, but when compared to the rest of the album they’re a bit mundane and don’t seem to show off the ambition and skill of the rest of Nocturne.
In terms of 80’s adoration, perhaps Wild Nothing’s only contemporary is Twin Shadow, and just like George Lewis, Jr., Jack Tatum’s work stands head and shoulders above almost every other indie pop band that aims for a nostalgic sound. With just two albums under his belt, Tatum has quickly proven himself a force to be reckoned with and here he’s made one of the most easily satisfying records of the year.