Release Date: May 14, 2013
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Noise Pop
After the dizzying heights reached by 2012's Nocturne—readers with a keen memory for lists may recall it being Under the Radar's album of the year—one could hardly blame Jack Tatum, aka Wild Nothing, for settling for more of the same with a follow-up record in a couple of years. If that album was a progression from Gemini into a shoegaze aesthetic then new EP Empty Estate goes a step further into full-blown, keyboard-driven dream pop. .
With heavy, scuzzy opening guitar chords, it's clear that Empty Estate will be a departure from the silky, reverb-heavy, '80s-style dream pop that Virginia's Wild Nothing have become known for. There's a striking sense of command and confidence evident on this EP, which Tatum previously developed on sophomore album Nocturne and has fine-tuned here. This set expands upon the nostalgic aura of previous albums to include more electronic elements and a flurry of catchy synth riffs ("Ride"), focusing heavily on beats and bass lines that serve to consistently propel the collection onwards.
Jack Tatum's gleaming nocturnal synth pop as Wild Nothing produced not only an incredible string of recordings, but also spearheaded a micro-movement of indie-level dream pop more rooted in the '80s synth reflections of acts like Echo & the Bunnymen or Aztec Camera than the mumbly fractalized bedroom productions coming from chillwave circles. 2010's brilliant debut Gemini and 2012's more polished Nocturne were bridged by the piecemeal Golden Haze EP, and now Empty Estate follows that trend with seven new tracks to tide fans over until the release of a third album. While Wild Nothing's output up to this point saw various upgrades in production values, they all maintained a certain consistency and overall color.
Where the 2000s saw an explosion of folk groups, the second decade of the new millennium has so far been characterized by a couple of great dreampop records and a lot of subpar ones. Originality is hard to achieve when everyone’s dedicated to exploring the exact same sonic playground. Beach Fossils, DIIV and Real Estate are the sleepy, echo-driven revival’s triumvirate, but Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing proves again that four is better than three with his new EP, Empty Estate.
Wild NothingEmpty Estate EP[Captured Tracks; 2013]By Chris Brancato; May 21, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGWild Nothing, the product of sensitive songwriter Jack Tatum, has always worn his influences on his sleeve. First making his formal introduction with a heartfelt rendition of Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting” (initially made as a present for his then-girlfriend back in 2009), Tatum has left his musical focus on acts of this particular timeframe. Never venturing too far off the grid, Wild Nothing has only elaborated and honed in on his whimsical synth-driven sounds.
Jack Tatum clearly believes that a moving target is harder to hit, having been in near perpetual motion since he first broached the music scene in the guise of Wild Nothing back in 2009. Since then we've been treated to his dreamy pop earworms across two full length albums and an intervening EP, each released to wide acclaim and each feeling like a distinct progression from the last. If the lush lo-fi ethereality of 2010's Gemini showed Tatum's first tentative steps blinking into the light, its finespun melancholic foundations were only extended and illuminated through follow up EP, Golden Haze.
Wild Nothing’s two full-lengths have made it clear which artists Jack Tatum models his sound after. Judging from his EPs, he also hopes to emulate their careers. As with his much-cited indie and dream-pop influences-- Belle and Sebastian, My Bloody Valentine, to name a couple-- Tatum tailors his ambitions to the format. With an EP's expectations and stakes lowered, he builds on the previous full-length and takes some artistic risks to push his sound forward.
Upon Googling Eric Shaw, the artist behind Empty Estate’s colorful cubism-meets-1987 cover, you’ll likely stumble upon this interview where he informs us that his extracurriculars include creating art while smoking weed out of a zucchi, deeming his cover design a fitting compliment to Wild Nothing’s dreamy guitar pop, from which smoke practically materializes on its own. While both 2010’s Gemini and 2012’s Nocturne delivered luscious, ‘80s-inspired dream-pop covered in the slightest film of melancholy, Tatum now returns with seven sprawling, upbeat, and psychedelic songs. Get lost during the instrumental last minute of EP-opener “The Body in the Rainfall”, during which a growing keys/drum/guitar section builds a certain suspicion that a jovial chorus of “Hey!”s or “Yeah!”s you’d find in a song from a band like Of Monsters And Men is on its way.
EPs always tend to go one of two ways: they can either be a platform by which an artist toys around with a different sound or style without committing to a full album, or they can be stopgap measures aimed at cashing in on a few demos and throwaway songs. Jack Tatum, the mastermind behind the dream-pop band Wild Nothing, uses the format for the former. His last EP, 2010’s Golden Haze, was a tight collection of songs that expanded on the textures present on Wild Nothing’s debut while predicting the direction the band would eventually take on last year’s Nocturne.
Sometimes how we perceive the world around us is simply a matter of which side of the bed we woke up on that morning. If you’ve listened to Jack Tatum’s previous two albums as Wild Nothing—2010’s dreamy Gemini and 2012’s majestic Nocturne—then you’ll take notice immediately upon listening to Empty Estate that these songs sound like Tatum woke up on the “better” side of the bed for the 10 day stretch of time during which the EP was recorded.The band’s debut record, Gemini, introduced Tatum as a dream-poppin’ shoe-gazin’ Robert Smith of few words. Nocturne solidified that image, serving as a sublime soundtrack for alluring nights of early twenty-something apathy.
Wild Nothing’s, or rather the genre-defying one-man whizz behind it, Jack Tatum’s, new seven-track EP ‘Empty Estate’ washes over you whilst at the same time forcing you to pay attention to the magic he’s making; prepare for plenty of moronic, involuntary head-nodding and eye-closing. In opener ‘The Body In Rainfall’, Tatum combines predictable chord progressions and a bumbling beat with cheerful electronics and some surprisingly intimate lyrics. And this is really where Wild Nothing’s charm lies: in his ability to fuse musical styles and focus to create something multi-faceted and consistently engaging.
Jack Tatum's Wild Nothing project has been on a notable winning streak. Since debuting in 2010 with Gemini, a winsome, guitar-pop glide programmed entirely on Garage Band in the college town of Blacksburg, Va., his amber voice and deft songwriting have kept him defiantly in the spotlight. Last year's mystic Nocturne refreshed his notoriety with a starry rumble of incandescent electro-pop, and now the Empty Estate EP arrives as a vessel for embracing weirder inhibitions.