Wild Nothing

Jack Tatum (photo: Shawn Brackbill)

After crafting two immaculate albums of whimsical dreampop tunes, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum has returned this year with what might be called his “mature” release, a term that is usually code for either boring or difficult.

Yet Life of Pause, which came out in February, is neither of those things. Tatum, who founded Wild Nothing as a bedroom recording project in 2009, still has an impeccable ear for melodic, yearning tunes. But the lilting, airy songs that filled his earlier work are now underpinned with moments of dissonant white noise and woozy, dense synth sounds.

Songs like “Japanese Alice,” with its squawking finish, wouldn’t feel completely out of place on My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze debut Isn’t Anything, and “To Know You” has a clamorous, insistent Krautrock beat to propel it along. Those are sprinkled alongside the more usual Wild Nothing fare, such as album opener “Reichpop,” a buoyant, chiming production.

The album is an alluring and older-sounding effort from Tatum, and it’s a sensible step forward for the 27-year-old songwriter, whose band will play at The Independent on April 22. Eager to explore sounds outside of the U.K-in-the-’80s, post-punk environs he mined so expertly, Tatum is now embracing Philly soul, R&B and Motown influences, creating a bold amalgam of old and new influences.

“I think I’ve always loved these kinds of music,” said Tatum. “But when I first started Wild Nothing, I had this pretty rigid idea of what I wanted it to be. I think the music I’m making now is just a natural progression for me. The door is open now for a lot more musical ideas.”

While the sonic landscape of the album recalls a more-assured version of Wild Nothing, Tatum insists that he still has plenty of things to figure out, and that’s evidenced by the restless nature of his lyrics. His songs are structured in a conversational manner, with an anonymous “you” acting as his outlets for the questions and doubts he harbors.

“I’m definitely a self-critical person, and this record is a reflection of that,” said Tatum. “A lot of my songs deal with uncertainty—that’s just who I am. I read some article that described me as paranoid, which I thought was kind of funny. If I’m paranoid, it’s strictly about my own self and not about what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Much of Tatum’s lyrical content revolves around his grappling with love and relationships, particularly how they relate to the itinerant life of a musician. The album title is a reference to that uncertainty, and the lyrics for the title track reflect that, with Tatum musing about “Time in space / A love delayed / Just know that when I go there’s no reason to be afraid.”

“A lot of this is about reflecting on a life of love that comes with the constant changes that are a result of being a musician,” said Tatum. “It’s a little cheesy, but it’s honest.”

Wild Nothing, Whitney
The Independent
April 22, 2016
9pm, $20 (sold  out)