When Wild Nothing (the shoegaze project of Virginia-based Jack Tatum) first released Gemini in 2010, the record painted a musical picture that was intriguing, but rather blurry and unfocused. By contrast, the sophomore release Nocturne brings things into clear view.
Musically speaking, that is.
As a musical act, Wild Nothing still feels a bit like an enigma, and Tatum seems to like it that way. In a manner typical of his genre, he eschews celebrity and focuses more on the music itself—and the music is more about mood than statement. As a result, listening to a record by Wild Nothing is definitely less about jamming, and more about kicking off one’s flip-flops and nursing a beer (or other substance) while daydreaming on a grassy hillside. Hence the term, “dream pop.”
When I say the music has come into focus, what I mean is that Nocturne shows a lot more musical consistency and maturity than Gemini did. Production value, arrangements and overall listen-ability have been taken up several notches, which basically means that Tatum has (in an understated manner, mind you) accomplished the feat of causing his sophomore effort to surpass the expectations set by his debut.
As for the music itself, Nocturne is a pleasing blend of shoegaze pop and New-Wave influences, with sonic atmosphere being the primary goal, and Tatum’s heavily-reverbed vocals resting comfortably in the background of the mix. But that isn’t to say the record isn’t about anything in particular. If you (strain to) listen to the lyrics, there is a consistent theme of love—or rather, sex. Running the gamut between cynicism on “Paradise” (“Crush me with the lies / Tell me once or twice / That love is paradise”) and the bliss of infatuation on “Only Heather” (“I couldn’t explain it, I won’t even try / She is so lovely she makes me feel high”), this record touches on attraction, desire, lust, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, using, being used—all the emotions and complexities associated with casual relationships, and only flirting with the idea of long-term commitment. All, of course, overlaid with lush strings and brilliant guitar work that make even the upbeat tunes feel relaxed.
You won’t find any standout moments on Nocturne, but then again, this music isn’t so much about standing out as it is about laying back. As such, for what it is, this record accomplishes its purposes brilliantly. Fans of Gemini will find plenty more to be happy about on Nocturne. Wild Nothing has set the bar even higher for itself.