If you are like me, you took one glimpse at the wholly discomforting album cover of Wild Nothing’s Gemini, and immediately grabbed at your own face to make sure that you still possess your highly desirable lower jaw. It’s not unlike waking from a fraught dream, shaking off the sleep and scouring your body to account for everything being intact. The sensation of reverie is entirely fitting for Wild Nothing, whose aptly pegged “80’s dream-pop” treads the familiar while never escaping the surreal throughout the artist’s wonderful debut album.
Hailing from Blacksburg, VA, Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing does not shy away from the dream association; instead, he welcomes it from the very first track, “Live in Dreams.” With Gemini, Tatum constructs a musical world saturated with shimmering synths and reverberating guitar, creating the blissful mood that never falters for the duration of the album. His voice floats and drifts, sometimes for several seconds, seeming both all-encompassing and completely out of reach at any given moment. The lyrics teem with unfulfilled sentiments and suppressed yearning (“Where are you going?/Can I come with you/I don’t feel right when you’re not here.”), but under the layers of hazy texture, the pain never seems acute. Compartmentalized in this other-worldly space, Tatum’s troubled emotions are only passing, and a sense of peace persists as each track fades to a gentle close.
The clarity of Wild Nothing’s expressiveness is refreshingly welcome, as the pervading anesthetic atmosphere takes the edge off the Tatum’s sharp reflection. The entire album has a well-conceived rhythm, and as such, no one song is worthy of a skip. A full listen without interruption is surprisingly comforting, especially during the summer months when music often aims for stand-alone anthems. That’s not to say that Gemini does not have its clear breakout moments; “Chinatown,” for one, exudes exuberance and conveys the restlessness that so often accompanies the mid-year break. Another album hightlight, “O, Lilac,” features a bouncing acoustic melody and is decidedly upbeat in comparison to the rest of the LP.
Sure, Wild Nothing sticks to a consistent musical formula, and doesn’t introduce any particularly novel concepts. But the strength of Tatum’s composition is unwavering, and maintained a inescapable grip on my own attention within every listening moment. Ultimately, the cool lushness of Gemini provides the perfect counterbalance to the sweet, beachy, sun-soaked albums that have become commonplace in the summer of 2010, and will have staying power long after the warm months dissipate into the crispness of autumn.
Worth many listens: “Chinatown”; “O, Lilac”; “Summer Holiday”; “Confirmation”