Wild Nothing's excellent debut album Gemini had a homemade, slightly wonky feel that gave Jack Tatum's take on '80s new wave pop a human touch. (Also, it included the brilliant single "Summer Holiday.") For the follow-up Nocturne, Tatum headed to the Rare Book Room to work with producer Nicolas Vernhes, and together the two crafted an album that takes Wild Nothing's sound out of the bedroom, dresses it in fancy clothing, and manages to be just as impressive. The overall sound of the album is much more layered and smooth; Tatum's bathed-in-warm-reverb voice is even lower in the mix, the guitars chime and ring but are rarely spiky, and the keyboards are more atmospheric than before. Another change on Nocturne is the live drums, which give the sound a boost in energy and power. While Gemini's drum machines were fun, they sometimes got in the way of the songs with their sometimes-cheesy retro-ness. No more of that for Tatum, this a meticulously crafted album that's the product of a pro studio and a seasoned producer. And while that's an approach that can often sink an album (and a career), in this case it works really well. The album's richly textured sound is a perfect match for the kind of relaxed and tuneful songs that dominate, Tatum and Vernhes focus the songs emotionally and sonically into an overall package that sounds lovely and has some real depth. There's no "Summer Holiday" this time out, but all the record's 11 songs are deeply memorable with subtle and long-lasting melodies. Some, like the jangly love song "Only Heather" or the string-filled and beautiful "Shadow," sound like hit singles, the rest are just great songs. A few even provide some surprises: "Through the Grass" is a positive sweetheart of a ballad featuring some nimbly picked acoustic guitar that conjures up memories of early Aztec Camera, "Paradise" is a big pop song that could be slotted into the climax of a John Hughes movie with a graceful ease. The album is much more Echo & the Bunnymen than it is Crocodiles, more Mirror Moves than Talk Talk Talk, but it doesn't suffer for it. Instead, thanks to the high level of Tatum's songs and the sound he and Vernhes create, it's just the kind of album that could connect with lovers of slick, catchy pop with real humans behind the controls.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra