Jack Tatum has a way with songwriting. He’s proven that since the beginning. Since way back in 2010 when Tatum was recording these dreamy, hazy pop songs in his bedroom that ended up being Wild Nothing’s debut Gemini. On that album the lo-fi aspect of the recordings added a touch of mystery to the proceedings, giving Tatum’s project the feeling that maybe this was some lost underground pop record from the 80s. From Gemini to Nocturne there was a huge leap sonically and in his creative intention. Nocturne was released in 2012 and was a pristine collection of songs done up like art pieces hanging in some seaside gallery overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Those tracks elevated Tatum’s status as one of the up-and-coming guys to watch, much like those Beach Fossils fellas and those Diiv dudes(what do they all have in common? Mike Sniper and Captured Tracks.)
It seemed as if Tatum was feeling a push to continue along that pristine and lovely musical path, so as not to fall into line he released the Empty Estate EP in 2013. That collection was quirkier and more slightly off-kilter than what came before, which gave it a rougher go with critics. As for me, I loved those songs. To me, it was a little weirder than Nocturne, but it was also more focused sonically. The gauzy effect he’d employed on Nocturne was tabled in lieu of a more sharper sound. In 2016 Wild Nothing released Life of Pause, a more rock and roll album than Tatum had toyed with before. It was as if Wire had made an early 80s pop album which had been produced by Steve Lillywhite. Part Wire post-punk and part art pop XTC, Life of Pause was a busy but solid release with a heavy crew of guest musicians(and contained one of my favorite songs of 2016, “Reich Pop”.)
Welcome to 2018 and a whole new Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing. Well, maybe not that new but a newly focused and seemingly happy Jack Tatum. For his new record Indigo, Tatum has gone back to a more straight-up 80s pop sound. Big in scope, crisp in focus, and clear intentions to make you feel good. While Indigo isn’t going to make you rethink your life or what you think of Wild Nothing, it will most certainly soundtrack some road trips and end up on some pretty cool mix tapes.
“Letting Go” greets you at the door like some lost nugget from a John Hughes soundtrack. It has the focus of Psychedelic Furs and the melancholy lean of OMD, but with Tatum’s ethereal vocals. This is definitely the right way to open a record. “Oscillation” is a big and brash pop song, full of acoustic strumming and sky high synth lines. It has the feeling and depth of an artist happy and content and writing from a really good place. If you prefer your artists broken and soaking in desolation, then this may not be for you. Otherwise, this is one great ride.
Elsewhere, “Partners In Motion” paints a picture of hurt feelings and longing in a unique and pop-centric way. It puts me in mind of Tatum’s Empty Estate EP vibes, quirky and not the typical pop formula. The saxophone adds a touch of wonky soul to the proceedings. “Shallow Water” opens on a flanged bass line that brings to mind the Cure. Tatum’s vocals rise from a well of reverb. Soon enough the song picks up with a steady drum beat and lilting guitar. “Bend” is the goodbye this album deserves; huge harmonies, skyscraper highs, and a melodic uplift that sounds like the credits should start rolling any second.
Throughout Indigo Tatum flexes his 80s pop muscles giving us shimmering synths, chiming guitars, and Hugh Padgham-approved drums, making one of Wild Nothing’s most engaging records yet. While maybe not as mysterious and dreamy as something like Gemini or Nocturne, Indigo is a straight up, get you moving pop album. What does that mean in 2018, a pop album? I don’t know. I guess to me it means songs that engage your brain and get the internal cinema running 70mm inside your skull. It gets you thinking about the past, present, and future in technicolor and you can’t wait for the next song to move you equally.
That’s a damn good pop record to me.
7.9 out of 10