In Life of Pause, his third debut album for the project Wild Nothing, Jack Tatum experiments with different instrumentation to produce an upbeat and distinct style.

From the opening sounds of a xylophone in “Reichpop,” it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the Wild Nothing we’re used to (Wild Nothing is the project of Jack Tatum, who is joined by other musicians in live performances.) In Wild Nothing’s third studio album, Life of Pause, his signature washed out and almost apathetic sound is still present, but the album feels fuller and more alive than previous releases.

In Gemini, his debut album, Tatum developed his style of guitar-driven indie rock, with multiple guitar tracks blending together to form a dreamy atmosphere full of reverb and chorus effects. Similar to bands like Beach Fossils or Real Estate, Wild Nothing’s style was washed out with twinkly guitars that became the forefront of the melodies. Traces of synthesizers or other instruments could be heard in the background, but guitar was the main focus. This is where Life of Pause differs.

Even in the opening track “Reichpop,” the listener will be acutely aware of a change. No longer depending entirely on a guitar-driven sound, Tatum injected new instruments into the forefront. The result is a more lively sound, contrasting songs like “Your Rabbit Feet”  from his extended play Golden Haze, which still has the “dreamy” feel Wild Nothing is known for but is less upbeat. “Life of Pause,” a track opening with a synth lead, is perhaps the best example of the instrumental diversification of the album, with the synth driving the melody rather than the guitar. A sort of indie-pop-chillwave hybrid, Tatum adopted a sound for this album that is somewhat similar to Toro y Moi, who utilises a blend of synth, guitar and samples to produce a strikingly distinct and unique style.  

At times, the album has a strong shoegaze feeling, particularly in the song “To Know You,” in which the driving bass line and lead synth notes are fairly reminiscent of the opening of My Bloody Valentine’s album Loveless. However, Tatum’s vocals seem more present in the mix and less “far away” as is typical in shoegaze or even some of his own previous work.

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The lyricism on Life of Pause is consistent with what is expected of Wild Nothing. They are just as dreamy as the instrumentals, with existential themes of love, loss and melancholy. Take, for instance, this lyric from “A Woman’s Wisdom:” “And I don't believe in heaven / But, baby, you can be my church.” The lyrics are one aspect of the album that aren’t a huge improvement from past releases. They are effective in conveying their message, but none of them stand out as particularly moving.

Overall, this album is undeniably Wild Nothing. Refraining from straying too far from what made his previous albums work, Tatum effectively buffed his sound instead of dropping it completely and adopting a new one. While it’s nothing groundbreaking or cutting-edge, it’s undeniably an improvement. Perhaps it could be better enjoyed in the summer, when the warm pop sounds and synthesizers could be better appreciated. Regardless, Life of Pause is an enjoyable album that can be listened all the way through, generally without the listener getting bored at any point. Some songs don’t stand out as well as others, but they all flow in a way that makes sense.

Rating: 4/5


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