Wild Nothing


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If Wild Nothing's debut album, Gemini, consisted of nothing more that the song “Summer Holiday” and 25 minutes of a dial tone, it would still be one of the best records to come out of the lo-fi, reverb pop scene of 2010. The song's four minutes of achingly pretty guitar chime, soaring vocal melodies, and rhythmic charge that’s easy to get swept up in result in what can only be called perfect pop. The vocal-bass-drum breakdown halfway through is the kind of heart-stopping moment that bands dream of capturing in their songs. Incredibly, Gemini is filled with songs that rate just below "Summer Holiday" -- some, like “My Angel Lonely” and “O, Lilac,” are arguably just as good. Wild Nothing's main (and only) man Jack Tatum may have been a recent high-school graduate when the album was recorded, but he proves himself to be a scholar of music that was for the most part dead and buried long before his birth. There are sounds traceable to OMD, the Cocteau Twins, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, and scores of post-punk dreamers and synth pop romantics. The cheesy synths, heavily treated guitars, tons of cheapo drum machines and heavily layered production are totally '80s, but unlike most bands of the era he so loves, Tatum’s vocals don’t dominate the sound. Instead, he blends them into the arrangements, using them as just another element of the overall texture and feel. It’s a choice that could have led to the songs losing some impact, but the melodies are so strong and Tatum’s ability to create a mood of quiet desperation is so perfectly calibrated that you wouldn’t want to change a thing sound-wise. It’s a mood with many variations, too -- from the echoing, distant-sounding “The Witching Hour” to the quietly pulsating, almost bleak “Pessimist,“ Tatum makes sure to alter the sound and rhythmic approach enough to keep the listener engaged. His melodic gifts are powerful enough that even if he had no production skills at all, the album would still be great. In fact, he easily could have made 11 variations on "Summer Holiday" and had a hit record. That he explores different avenues and does so successfully bodes well for future releases.

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