Wild Nothing: Nocturne Review

Unless you’re a naïve tween who considers shallow drivel about disco sticks the epitome of contemporary artistic expression, pop music fails to elicit the emotions it once did.

And I verily hope you’re not.

Pop’s greatest singers are now all dead and gone, while the ones who walk the earth care little for integrity and sincerity in their music; the two qualities that once made pop records great.

Instead our current roster of manufactured pop stars charge headfirst to the charts with dollar signs in their eyes and a band of stylists, producers and brand strategists in their pockets.

Or rather the other way round.

But there may still be a slight glimmer of hope for this bruised and battered genre in the form of dream-pop powerhouse Wild Nothing aka, Jack Tatum.

His first album, the acclaimed Gemini, was a record that demanded more attention than the confines of his bedroom it was made in; which it duly received, but not to the scale that was warranted.

So it’s only natural this time around Jack has stepped out of his house and into a professional recording studio, to see if he can take his sound to the next level while retaining that personal touch which made Gemini such a charmer.

Rather unsurprisingly, the effects it has had are as clear as day with the mesmerising Nocturne.

So maybe I should say night.

Wild Nothing’s music is, in Jack’s own words, based around strong melodies, catchy hooks and romantic subject matter; in other words, the holy trinity of pop music.

Yet amidst this decaying and tiresome formula lies something remarkably fresh and tangible, mainly achieved by the way he rearranges the way these classic pop elements react to each other; creating his own fresh take on the staid pop format.

In keeping with this, Tatum’s vocals play less of a central role and instead act more as of a support to the album’s layered, melodic guitar work and glistening backing production.

Together, this forms Nocturne’s series of modern pop mantras whose appeal lies not in the lyrics but rather the placement and sounds of the words in relation to the instrumentation.

Hooks and choruses play a strong role in this music, but they’re by no means the core of the song.

As is the case with most pop numbers, Tatum treats each element with the respect and attention it deserves; structuring his tracks according to this ethos that in turn makes no particular part stand out, but rather the whole track itself, which is what a good pop song is all about.

According to the man himself, the ideas for the album were spawned from the solitude of night time. Songs like Midnight and Shadow, as well as the album title track itself, allude to some sort of dark theme running through the veins of the record.

And there is, but it’s more like welcoming some serene darkness, and is far from the ominous and sinister ideas these words can conjure.

On Nocturne, Wild Nothing have refined their signature sound developed on Gemini to the point of perfection, or as close as one can get to it.

The continuity of tracks is seamless and the general feel is one of effortless cohesion.

It’s a fully-fledged, self-sustained sonic organism that seems to occupy a personal inner space for Jack; the end product being a record that reads like a book, with a beginning, middle and end.

I’ll avoid delving into tracks because it would just be taking away from the album in its entirety.

And make no mistake about it, this is where Nocturne truly comes into its own.

Kareem Ghezawi

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August 2012
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