Album Review: Wild Nothing ‘Nocturne’
Back in college, I took a class on Bob Marley that was really more of a socioeconomic look into the world of Jamaican culture. As the class went on, a major focus shifted to Bob’s song “Rat Race” and it’s broader meaning on a macro scale. The imagery certainly fits for any culture, as really, what are we each doing every single day besides running around the maze of life ever searching for some cheddar – or in a more literal sense, happiness and bliss. Music, well at least the albums I consider my favorites, have always provided a way to remove my soul from the maze that is life, allowing me to sit above and think about the journey, gain some clarity, and then re-enter to chase endlessly once again. A few albums every year gain a place on the mantle of my sanity, and they tend to remain permanent residents. I listen to a lot of albums once, but I find that I don’t often listen to the same over and over again. But the ones I do…now those are the special ones…the select few that truly matter.
Jack Tatum is Wild Nothing. Wild Nothing is Jack Tatum. Meet and greet because you are likely to stay awhile. Coming about two years after Gemini, the band’s sophomore LP Nocturne represents, according to Jack in a fantastic interview with Stereogum, his first album in which he wrote music for an audience other than just himself. And I must say, personally, that this is one of my favorite collection of songs that I’ve ever put my ears to. And while I loved Gemini, this album represents a whole new appreciation for the man behind the music.
And when I say the man behind the music, I mean that in the most literal sense, because Tatum writes and plays all of the music on the album besides the drums. No song shows this off more than the infectous “Shadow”, a thought provoking track that strikes just the right mix of strings, acoustic guitar, and vocals. While all of Wild Nothing’s songs can take on a “chill vibe”, this one stands out amongst his previous work as being able to pull the listener in rather than allowing you to sink into the surrounding atmosphere. The acoustic guitar drives the moment home, giving this song a true semblance of completeness. The second track, “Midnight Song”, harnesses the spirit of Gemini with some relaxing guitar and an ending jam that shows the effect that performing live has had on Tatum’s music. If this track were on his previous album, it would have stayed as a guitar solo closing rather than bringing multiple parts together for a jam session at the end.
The album’s namesake follows with what is perhaps the best song on this LP. It fits into the overlapping themes of this album, namely the darker side of our interaction with others. With a verse that says, “And I’m twisted / what can I say / your days are empty / and my tongue’s decayed / and we still / just don’t tempt me / one more night of your company” followed by “I know where to find you / I know where you go. / And I just want to let you know / You can have me / You can have me whole” you have a song that sounds borderline stalkerish in all the best ways.
Breaking into the middle of the album are “Through the Grass” and “Only Heather”, which feature the aforementioned atmospheric vibes of the first album. “This Chain Won’t Break” represents another song where Jack has obviously harnessed the live atmosphere as you can almost see this song playing in front of you. That point really can’t be overstated…the difference between writing your first album in your bedroom for yourself and your second for not only you, but others. There’s a certain give and take that must exist, which is what I see being the biggest difference between these two albums. When you are writing music with your fans in mind, you know they are expecting something, and only a performer can truly understand what that is.
Into the last half of the album, “Paradise” and “Counting Days” stand out amongst the crowd. In speaking of the first, it’s an ethereal, dreamlike song of hope. Like the rest of the album and Tatum’s work in general, it shys away from being over the top and instead focuses on a holistic sense of being. On “Counting Days” Tatum’s vocals open up to the forefront of the music, leading the listener on a love affair as he proclaims amongst catchy guitar riffs, “You want to make spin / You want to hold me in”.
In all, Nocturne is what you want a second album to be from an emerging artist. It’s sincere, honest music from his soul that shows growth for the sake of performance and not for the sake of simply change. When I first saw Wild Nothing perform during the tour of the first album, I kept thinking during the show that something was missing. And after listening to this album, I believe I’ve put my finger on it. While Gemini was simply a collection of songs for Jack, Nocturne is one we can share with him. And that makes all the difference between great and memorable. Nocturne is available via your favorite record store or iTunes now via Captured Tracks. Stream the album in its entirety below.
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Written by Greg Dahman
Album Review: DIIV ‘Oshin’
A close friend recently told me that I was the most impatient person that they had ever met. As I searched for a rebuttal, I slowly came to grips with the new infamous title. I wanted to flip this perception immediately; however, I understood this was going to be a work in progress. After attempting to master the deep breath, battling to find an adult bedtime, and lowering my caffeine intake to a reasonable level, I begin to find regular calmness. Like most instances I turn to music and try to find ways to connect the dots. While I continue to look for areas of enhancement, I immediately dial in on a certain absentminded, musical genre that has completely influenced my train of thought this year. Releases by Beach House, Grimes, and Chairlift have helped relieve my intolerance by providing a powerful ease through the textures and moods that they focus on. Existential in nature, dream-pop has emerged as my elixir to during experiences when calmness does not come quickly. The latest delicate disposition is DIIV’s debut release Oshin. After several spins I have found an additional record to lean on to help me keep track of my tranquility.
Zachary Cole Smith may not be household name amongst independent music circles, but I begin to classify his work among the top tier of mood changing guitarists in my rotation. When I put on Beach Fossils’ EP, What a Pleasure last year I quickly realized that Smith was a mood master. Songs like “Calyer” help to showcase Smith’s ability to highlight otherworldly textures through his guitar playing. His style has etched a path in my brain that demands attention while offering an exit to ease. His direction in Beach Fossils provides me with my first dose, while his introspective melodic playing on Oshin helps to proactively numb impatient nerves.
Smith recorded this project in his bedroom with no Internet. The intimacy with these unplugged intentions builds immediate appreciation as I sink into this release. His cracking melodies provide comfort almost effortlessly. Words appear to be subtle whispers throughout this record. The blurry lyrical perspective hides behind the melody, but also endorses many compliments to this dim 13-track release. The embedded, transposition that bassist, Devin Ruben Perez brings to the project is immediately noted in opening instrumental, “(Druun)”. Former Smith Westerns drummer, Colby Hewitt, provides perfect structure around Smith’s childhood friend, Andrew Bailey’s guitar magic. The record serves as a silhouette where each band member’s style helps to blur the line.
DIIV might come across to the listener as comfortable, but I find tracks like “Human” a bit unsettling. This song is true to the foundation of Oshin, but yearns for more with their most aggressive approach. The addition of songs “Sometime” and “Doused” promote Smith’s vision to captivate and build lightly. The insinuating approach that Smith subtly conveys throughout Oshin contentedly challenges the listeners’ experience. Send off, “Home” serves as the perfect lullaby and a last layer to rest my thoughts on. This record’s ambiguity is amplified with each play, while inviting the listener into a comfortable distraction.
The rise in my own personal connection with dream-pop could not have come at a better time. Each new release offers additional mesmerizing textures that display patience. Albums like Oshin are perfect for anyone looking for a change in musical perception and self-reflection. A familiar feeling of uneasiness sets in as I impatiently think about a follow-up only a week after its release…a work in progress.
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Written by Brett McGrath
Band to Watch: Heavenly Beat
If 2011 was the year of a fantastic EP following a LP, 2012 is officially the year of the side projects and new endeavors. From Father John Misty to Polica to Frankie Rose, we’ve had no shortage of fantastic records from new acts with familiar faces. But perhaps no group has had better individualistic efforts come out than Brooklyn based Beach Fossils. With guitarist Zachary Cole Smith’s band DIIV about to release their fabulous debut album Oshin next week, another member of the group is stepping into the forefront with something new. Bassist John Pena, recording under the moniker Heavenly Beat, will release his debut LP Talent on July 24th via Captured Tracks.
While DIIV has taken a page out of the Beach Fossils book and gone with a reverb heavy guitar, John has ditched that sound in favor of synth filled disco pop. “Messiah” was the first single released off the album in early May which was followed up by “Tradition” late last week. His label describes the sound as “attractive music for attractive people” and I have a hard time disagreeing with that assessment. Aesthetically pleasing to the core, this is music hitting at the visceral beauty all around. And who doesn’t love smooth, soothing pop music to sink into?
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Written by Greg Dahman