Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing make music that’s both very familiar and very foreign to ears. At once his songs are a flashback to the early days of 80s alternative and at the same time they’re the echoes in his head of some alternate universe where The Thompson Twins, Art of Noise, and Gary Numan joined forces. His first full-length as Wild Nothing was Gemini, a group of lo fi-ish 80s dance gems that hinted at Tatum’s impressive songwriting and production prowess. Nocturne came out in 2012 and was one of best releases of the year. Jumping off where he left Gemini, he refined his sound, beefed up the production, and made pop gems that were at once light and airy, yet had low end and depth. Jack Tatum had perfected a sound he could call his own. Now comes Empty Estate, a long e.p. or very short album that shows Tatum became restless and needed to redefine his songwriting. It’s an album with late night dance excursions, guitar pop, and otherworldly weirdness that hint at a Sufjan Steven-like re-imagining of ones career. It also hints that Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing are working on what will surely be a masterpiece of a third full-length.
“The Body In Rainfall” opens Empty Estate on an almost playful, guitar rock hand clapper. It’s a straight-up rock ‘n roll song, complete with driving drums, guitar fuzz, and airy piano chords in the back. “Ocean Repeating(Big-Eyed Girl)” has a loping, funky beat, with a fluid bass line and a more sinister vibe. This is much more in the vein of Nocturne but with a spidery guitar line taking the place of that album’s synth washes. There’s a weird, sinister vibe to the songs on Empty Estate that wasn’t in Wild Nothing’s music before. It’s refreshing and alarming all at once. It’s as if Jack Tatum sat around listening to Swell Maps, Com Truise, and Neon Indian one lonely evening in his Brooklyn flat. Tatum shows a love of ambient instrumentals as well, like on the Brian Eno-inspired “On Guyot”, and the droning beauty of album closer “Hachiko”. The echoes of Nocturne’s dance pop and 80s alternative can still be heard clearly on “Data World” and the excellent and delightfully quirky “A Dancing Shell”. Both show that Wild Nothing isn’t completely abandoning Tatum’s pure pop beauty; he’s just adding a few extra ingredients to make the colors a bit brighter, and the pleasures more pleasureful.
Once again Jack Tatum proves that Wild Nothing is one of the most interesting and accomplished musical forces making music currently. He seems to be going through a restless phase on Empty Estate. He’s not resting on his laurels. Where Nocturne was a pleasant and at times euphoric high, Empty Estate seems to be the nervous and dark trip. Those trips are the ones you get the most out of.
9.2 out of 10