Review: Wild Nothing - "Life of Pause"

Wild Nothing - Life of Pause
(2016 Captured Tracks)

Having undergone more identity crises than an angsty high-school sophomore over the course of his sonically diverse 6-year discography, Jack Tatum finds his once scrappily charming solo project in a state of cozy repose. Though as tinged with shimmering chorus and as bathed in reverb as ever, his appropriately-titled new record, Life of Pause, resembles the descent into a long-deserved nap, shedding the colorful bombast of 2014's Empty Estate and jittery jangle-pop tension of Gemini for a pair of 70's soft-rock pajamas. Tatum's tunecraft is lower in tempo, but noticeably at its most confident, draping towering mid-tempo scaffoldings in gaudy glam-pop orchestration and a sense of twangy warmth that recalls Fleetwood Mac. Even without the strength of hooks as instantly catchy as those found on "Summer Holiday" and "Golden Haze" before it, Life of Pause dazzles with lush instrumentation, more complex song structure and a veteran's keen patience.

Picking up where the Talking Heads-inspired flamboyance of Empty Estate left off,  Life of Pause is teeming with new ideas and timbres. Right off the bat, Tatum opens intro cut "Reichpop" with a thin fog of guitar feedback, penetrated only by a rainfall of marimba that could be taken as an homage to Toto's "Africa". Cuts like the piano-laden "Woman's Wisdom" even hearken back to Todd Rundgren's early 70's output, its funk bassline and meandering synths leading up to a Bee Gees chorus. "Japanese Alice", with its nimbly strummed, trebly chords and motorik rhythms most resembles Tatum's earliest work, but still manages to stay fresh on the strength of tight production and a breezy refrain that introduces the album's most predominant lyrical theme - "wax museum / uncanny valley", he whispers above glistening arrangements. Tatum, like many artists I've been taking a look at lately, is exploring the boundaries between reality and our digital semblances of it: "TV Queen" is a love song written to a figure behind the screen while "Alien" seems to deal with the distortion of personality/appearance that social media allows us. It's the aforementioned "TV Queen" that serves as the Life Of Pause's creative peak, lacing sultry strings and eerily echoing guitar riffs above the sort of grrovy basslines that are extremely prevalent throughout the record. It's punchy, melancholy and strangely entrancing. While it likely won't gain as many new fans as the sleek, accessible Nocturne before it, Life Of Pause is sure to be a treat for diehard Wild Nothing fans who have come to love Tatum's terse lyricism and crisp arrangements.