Nocturne, Jack Tatum’s sophomore album as Wild Nothing, finds the gifted young songwriter exploring a more refined, less impressionistic world of pop music—one that exists outside the confines of his bedroom. Gemini, Tatum’s blog-approved 2010 debut, is filled with ethereal melodies and handcrafted shoegaze texture, but its lo-fi production qualities keep the music’s core romanticism at arm’s length. In supreme contrast, Nocturne opens with startling studio clarity: “Shadow” features glistening layers of guitar, warm bass runs, and drum fills that punch with precision rather than evaporate. Sonically, it’s Tatum’s most instantly rewarding song to date—but it’s also his most heartfelt, with an elegant, effortless vocal hook juxtaposed with brooding strings, undercutting the melancholy with newfound sophistication.
Nothing else on Nocturne feels quite as timeless. Most songs remain rigidly loyal to the frosty templates of modern chillwave and indie-pop: acoustic guitars strumming seventh chords, mountains of reverb, breathy harmonies, oceanic synths. As a result, tracks like the ultra-jangly “Disappear Always” and the propulsive “Counting Days” feel somewhat indistinct. It doesn’t help that Tatum—a singer with impressive range and charming vulnerability—often sings in a distracted haze, as if he recorded his vocals in bed during a nasty hangover.
However, Tatum excels when he opens up his sonic repertoire. “Paradise,” a welcome blast of ’80s-styled yacht-pop, thrives on the interplay of its trebly guitars and booming, stadium-sized drums. “This Chain Won't Break” boasts the album’s most massive hook, but it’s also a miracle of miniature details—like the tangled webs of percussion (which gradually build in complexity and intensity), or the ghostly vocal harmonies, which appear and vanish at exactly the right moments, maximizing the song’s emotional impact.
Tatum’s palette may be overly familiar, but unlike so many of his dream-pop peers, he’s gradually pushing his style forward. On Nocturne, he’s matured considerably as a songwriter, demonstrating a knack for the subtle nuances that make memorable songs tick.