If it is not the best album of 2012, than surely it is the year’s ultimate indie album. Wild Nothing’s sophomore effort unites the best of what today’s alternative music has to offer in the tenties; post-rock as unsettling and restrained as Deerhunter, noise pop as melancholic and yearning as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and New Wave as brooding and witty as John Maus. In spite of these clear references, Jack Tatum a.k.a. Wild Nothing’s true musical kinsfolk are New Jersey’s Real Estate. Like Real Estate, Wild Nothing debuted with a rattling lo-fi album full of bittersweet Pet Sounds-based melodies (Gemini, 2010) to return two years later, with a well produced and lavishly instrumented second album. Both bands have a talent for writing catchy melodies that just wont leave your head. Both bands manage to induce that ‘happy being sad’ feeling that was so common in days of yore.
The main differences between Wild Nothing and Real Estate, is that Jack Tatum goes it alone. He counts on electronics and studio musicians to create a band sound that is broader than Real Estate’s. As with recent releases of Beach House and Cat Power the label lo-fi more reflects the mood of Nocturne than the quality of the sound recordings. The albums autumnal opener Shadow, for instance, boasts a full fledged string ensemble that wouldn’t fit into the most spacious of bedroom recording studio’s. It’s the first sign that Jack Tatum’s urge to sound inadvertent has somewhat subsided. After the first few chords of the song you half-expect Robert Smith to set in his shrill whine, but as soon as you hear Jack Tatum’s melancholic voice you realize you’re dealing with a more laid-back and reflective kind of gloom than Boys Don’t Cry.
The album’s title track is perhaps the best example of Jack Tatum’s ability to stuff his songs with countless references to everything that’s great about Indie without having them burst at the seams. The song’s macho guitar lick originates in the early days of U2, Flock of Seagulls and The Alarm. It’s bipartite verses going from dreamy to brooding are reminiscent of the turn of the century and Turn on the Bright Lights in particular. It’s unlikely poppy chorus is as slick as Empire of Sun and Phoenix. Wild Nothing blends it all together into a breezy bit of nostalgia, crossing genres and bridging decades without ever smelling of retro.
For those of you who can’t sit through an entire album of jangly pop; in the second half synthesizers and the rhythm section play a more prominent role. I wouldn’t call it a breach of styles, but songs like This Chain Won’t Break and Paradise are definitely more groovy than anything else we’ve heard from Wild Nothing to this day. It makes me wonder if perhaps Wild Nothing’s live performance has also become more dynamic than in was in 2010. Jack Tatum and his supportband will perfom in Amsterdam on the 3rd of November. Buy your tickets soon, because I’m sure that Nocturne will draw a larger crowd than can fit into the upstairs hall of the Paradiso.