With 2018's Indigo, the fourth album from Jack Tatum's increasingly glossy dream pop project Wild Nothing, the blurry origins of the project had been polished into a neatly produced set of '80s-intoned pop. The recording process was long and involved, utilizing multiple studios and various producers to arrive at a rich and colorful presentation of some of Tatum's most straightforward tunes. Laughing Gas follows the trend of Wild Nothing releasing an EP of outtakes following a proper album, just as Golden Haze followed the band's debut, Gemini, in 2010 and Empty Estate trailed 2012's Nocturne by about a year. Much like Indigo, the leftover tunes that make up the Laughing Gas EP are high-definition slices of easygoing synth pop with layers of chillwave synths, wobbly bass lines, and production borrowed from the Tears for Fears playbook. The set begins with "Sleight of Hand," a song that rides sophisti-pop chord changes and an accentuated bass line. The general energy of the song strikes like a livelier, happier, more synth-reliant version of the Blue Nile meeting minds with Tame Impala. This approach continues for the majority of the EP, with slick guitars and stabbing synth leads competing on "Dizziness" and a dour, chorus-heavy bass line guiding the pensive "Blue Wings." The Tears for Fears influence stands out most on closing track "The World Is a Hungry Place," a song where layered harmonies, floating saxophone accompaniment, and huge tom fills evoke the same wide-eyed wonder a lost Songs from the Big Chair B-side might. None of these tracks rank among Wild Nothing's strongest work, but they serve as an excellent extension of the relaxed, beatific mood Indigo cultivated.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas