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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Album Review: Wild Nothing’s ‘Nocturne’

    Album Review: Wild Nothings Nocturne

    No one wants a sophomore slump. For bands, especially bands whose debuts were as well-appreciated as Wild Nothing’s Gemini, the tricky part is actually writing ten more songs that hold a candle to your old ones. By that criteria, Wild Nothing truly brings it on Nocturne, a pleasant album filled with sounds both familiar and not to devotees of Gemini and its accompanying Golden Haze EP. On the other hand, the more difficult side of the sophomore slump jitters is convincing fans of the first, beloved record that your second album’s worth listening to instead of your first. This is where I struggle with Nocturne, and its worrisome attempts at simply getting by on what merits Gemini and this new wave of dream pop have already established.

    At the risk of ignoring everything I’ve just said, lead-off track and first single “Shadow” is pretty great. From the beginning Wild Nothing mastermind Jack Tatum has been off on his own dream pop plane, eschewing the indie singalongs of Real Estate and foreboding dream-punk of bands like DIIV in favor of bedroom anthems for insomniacs. “Shadow” starts the record with the sleepy gusto found in Gemini’s best tracks and proceeds along that path for four and a half minutes, yet somehow wins due to speed and hummability. Yet for like “Paradise” and “Only Heather” the retread of this formula only grows tiresome with every subsequent verse and faceless guitar breakdown, the latter only saved by its boasting not two but three impeccable vocal hooks in the span of a fifteen second chorus. In no way is this meant to imply that Tatum’s dream pop formula is flawed. Rather its his love and comittment to the genre that so marked his work prior to Nocturne, as evidenced by “Disappear Always” that displays the same kind of consistent brilliance that “Shadow” does thanks great lyrics (“Let’s talk about anything, I don’t care”) and a killer guitar hook. It’s just that ultimately I’d rather listen to dream pop that builds upon its precedents rather than imitates them.

    To his credit, Tatum himself seems recognize elsewhere on Nocturne the value of experimentation in an increasingly growing and homogenized genre. Tracks like “Midnight Song” show an attention to loud-quiet dynamics only hinted at on Gemini, turning what could have been a routinely shimmering dream pop track into one that explodes euphorically every time it reaches its hook. Similarly the title track uses U2-esque guitar delay to remarkably good effect, giving the song a unique sense of character. Overall the tracks that have some kind of defining musical element, like the flamenco-picking of “Through The Grass” or the honest-to-God glam stomp of “This Chain Won’t Break”, go to show the kind of range that Wild Nothing is working with that just isn’t coming from many of their contemporaries. It should be interesting to see where exactly Wild Nothing settles down in the canon of new dream pop, considering the evident popularity of their style of music right now. I can only hope Wild Nothing’s more groundbreaking sonics found in Nocturne’s best material is something that is picked up on by other fans of the genre, promising us more exciting dream pop in the future.

    Note: Wild Nothing plays Club Congress this Friday 8/31, go check them out!

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