Somewhere around “Alien,” the fifth track of Wild Nothing’s third full-length LP—Life of Pause—I got lost in its sound—enveloped in its waves of keyboards and layered guitars. The song itself isn’t entirely remarkable, but its sound is curiously warm and inviting. It’s one of Jack Tatum’s strengths—he’s really the only member of Wild Nothing—creating lush, deep atmosphere for his songs.
Life of Pause follows 2012’s Nocturne and evolves pretty naturally out of it, with Tatum’s songwriting and arrangements becoming more adventurous; the marimba on the album opener “Reichpop” and the fluid saxophone on “Whenever I” are certainly welcome additions to Wild Nothing’s bag of tricks.
The new sounds work well, and they’re confidently integrated into Wild Nothing’s pleasing mix of shoegaze, dream pop, and the artier side of late-80s-sounding adult contemporary—”Reichpop” could be the album’s greatest asset weaving all of these threads together. Other standouts are the up-tempo pair “Japanese Alice” (which recalls a more pop-conscious Ride or Catherine Wheel) and the M83-rivalling title track. Tatum flirts with new genres too, adding subtle R&B rhythms and blue-eyed soul influences to tracks like “Whenever I” and “A Woman’s Wisdom.”
The album doesn’t have the homespun charm of 2010’s Gemini or the immediacy of Nocturne, but Life of Pause does show Wild Nothing moving forward. Or at least it really feels like it wants to be Tatum’s next big step forward. Which is fine, but it just feels a little on the calculated side and lacks the breezy charms and strengths of the first two records. Even if it doesn’t have the immediate rewards of previous efforts, Life of Pause reveals itself—and its layers—on repeated listens.