ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
After disappointing critics and fans alike with 2016’s Eno and Fripp-inspired Life of Pause, Jack Tatum, known to most as Wild Nothing, returns with Indigo, a record that attempts to revisit the chimeric formula of its 2012 breakout, Nocturne. Eschewing the experimental drones and diffusive arrangements of the last album, Wild Nothing is back dabbling with simple pop structures and retro sounds that made them so fascinating, to begin with. Unfortunately, Tatum indulges himself and the band way too far into the depths of revivalist territory while struggling to capture the dynamic strengths of the first two albums. Wild Nothing's latest endeavor will strain to leave an impression, but that doesn’t mean Indigo is without a few highlights. Wrapping the listener in an inviting wave of warmth, lead single “Letting Go” plays it safe yet sweet with routine synth-pop elements that have defined the band’s career thus far: shimmering guitars, sugary synth melodies, and a chorus that lifts your heart into a dream-like state, “Letting go/I want to be happier now/I want to be more than close/Surreal, the way you made me out/The way you crash me down.” Though his words suggest sadness in the act of forgetting someone of importance, they simultaneously lend to the track’s lucid feel and record’s buoyant spirit overall. Moving from sultry synth-pop to whispy jangle pop, Tatum shifts musical gears with the track “Oscillation.” While it would be easy to make a (The) Smiths comparison here, it’s important to remember that Morrisey and Marr hate synthesizers. That being said, “Oscillation” is most comparable to The Cure’s “In Between Days.” With an eerily similar jaunty acoustic guitar at the forefront, “Oscillation” is one of the most infectious pop songs released this year. With yet another inviting chorus, “Oscillation/Pulling me close/Pushing me back/Oscillation/Pulling me close/Pushing me back,” Tatum ruminates on the “oscillating” pace of his life with hopes of maybe slowing down a bit in the near future. The second single off Indigo, “Partners In Motion” is one of the more lyrically complex and conceptually sound moments of the entire album, as Tatum explores the construct of fleeting time through a voyeuristic lens and into the lives of a couple who grow increasingly resentful toward each other. While the pop song energy of the prior two tracks fails to permeate “Partners in Motion,’” its subdued guise allows for an atmosphere likened to an ‘80s neo-noir flick. Commenced by the sound of a pensively chugging bass line, “Shallow Water” may be the most classic sounding Wild Nothing song of the bunch, as it combines aqueous synths with resounding guitar reverb and Tatum’s airy falsetto. A direct love song to his wife, “Shallow Water” is beautifully sentimental as Tatum endearingly captures the comfort he feels whenever he is with his partner: “When I'm home/In the shallow water/You can swim around me/I won't mind/Circling me underneath/The only one I'll ever need…” Though Tatum’s lyrics are tinged with a bit of sadness and insecurity, the glistening curation of sound offers a sense of euphoria. With the first five cuts off Indigo offer profound nostalgia through fanciful verses and romantic chorus melodies, it’s smoldering elegance quickly loses steam as the record progresses. Though the album remains pleasant on the ears, it’s emotionally one-note and fails to inspire further listening because of it. Sonically, the ‘80s revivalist pastiche eventually becomes too grueling to withstand while Tatum’s vocals are routinely drowned in squeaky-clean production and surface-level choruses like on track “Flawed Translation,” “Let's stay together, baby/Let's stay together, yeah.” Even though Indigotries to capitalize with an extremely derivative sound (especially the second half of the album), Wild Nothing holds true to their brand: spacious and melodic synth-pop. It’s difficult to deny how lovely Indigo sounds with its dreamy textures and lyrical romanticism, but there is nothing about Wild Nothing’s latest that will open eyes. Moving forward, one could only hope that the band will stop pining for the past. There’s nothing wrong with harkening to ‘80s synth-pop once in a while, but it seems Wild Nothing has explored every nook and cranny of their current sound. It’s time for the incredibly talented Jack Tatum to move on to something more forward-thinking.
THE 405 RATING: 6/10