Wild Nothing, “Life of Pause”

WildNothing_2015_LifeofPauseWild Nothing
Life of Pause
CAPTURED TRACKS/BELLA UNION
5/10

Jack Tatum leans further into the synth-pop landscape than ever before on his third album as Wild Nothing, Life of Pause. The bioluminescent opening track “Reichpop” sets a solid template—with the effortless way it unspools its trippy combination of keys and marimba—but, unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t truly follow this new suit. Tatum veers off into different homages to his musical influences with mixed results: there’s the My Bloody Valentine–tinged pop of “Japanese Alice,” the meandering synth melody reminiscent of a Cocteau Twins B-side lost in a miasma on “Alien,” and the blunt, krautrock pulse of “To Know You.”

But there are times when a melody can get a foothold. For example, “Adore” floats by like a candy-coated fever dream of watery guitar, buzzy synths, and skyward vocals. It recalls more of the guitar-pop of Wild Nothing’s beginnings, and the Belle and Sebastian–esque single “TV Queen” echoes that sentiment wholeheartedly. Despite some rallying towards its terminus, by the time the T. Rex–indebted “Love Underneath My Thumb” ends, much of the album’s early force has dissipated.

Life of Pause feels more like a scattershot misting of beautiful Wild Nothing styles than the substantial downpour of inspiration we’ve come to expect from the singer-songwriter. And while there’s enough beauty in the LP to appreciate the effort, it’s hard not to wonder what could have been if Tatum buckled down and focused.

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