After heading into a real studio on the second Wild Nothing record Nocturne, Jack Tatum recorded the next album in three studios with producer Thom Monahan. Working in Sweden with drummer John Eriksson (of Peter Bjorn and John), in L.A. with Medicine guitarist Brad Laner, and closer to home in Brooklyn, the sound Tatum gets on Life of Pause is rich and luxurious. Where previous records have been bathed in reverb and were clearly the work of one person, this time the effects are kept on a low boil, the collaborations are clear, and the overall feel is like the jump from a small stage to a large concert hall. The arrangements are full to bursting, with grand pianos, marimbas, backing vocals, and saxophones surrounding Tatum's plaintive vocals. The songs are less insistent than before, too, with longer running times that allow for melodies to unspool slowly and drama to build organically. There aren't any songs like "Only Heather" or "Shadows" here, the kind that sound like radio hits; instead, it's like an album full of deep cuts that reveal themselves more fully on each listen, less immediately, but with deeper pleasure. A couple tracks stand out from the decidedly midtempo mix; the shoegaze pop of "Japanese Alice" and the very Peter Bjorn and John-sounding "Reichpop" provide some color. Not that the album is in dire need of bright hues, since the overwhelmingly grey shadings are vibrant enough, and Tatum makes sure to add little bits and pieces to each song to keep them sounding different enough. He and Monahan seem to have fussed with every last note and tone, buffing them to a sleek and shiny finish that serves the songs in just the right way. It's a fine match of maturing songwriter with an aged-to-perfection production that feels like a subtle progression from the last album, not some lurch into professional recording that leaves Tatum sounding lost and the listener wondering where all the stuff they liked about Wild Nothing disappeared to. All the good stuff is still here, one might just have to do a little digging, hang in through a couple listens, and then the songs on Life of Pause will begin to connect with the head and the heart.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra