We ain’t going wild for nothing. Jack Tatum and company are finishing their current tour with a bang in Chicago at the House of Blues, having just released their most recent album, “Hold,” this October.
If you are not familiar, though you likely are, Wild Nothing composes virtuosic indie dream-pop with generally buoyant, feel-good arrangements. Tatum (lead vocals and founder) formed Wild Nothing in 2009 in Blacksburg, Virginia as a twenty-one-year-old purveyor of DIY millennial beach rock. His first EP “Gemini” (2010) gathered steam and pedigree almost immediately at a time when self-produced electric-key centric indie music was hitting a renaissance.
Since the release of “Gemini” Wild Nothing has been prolific, releasing seven albums, and has also moved through a number of ensembles composing the band, with Tatum naturally always at the heart of the project. The current makeup of the band includes Nic Hessler (guitar) and Joshua Sushman (keyboard/saxophone), who together produce delightful progressions that somehow synthesize vintage surf pop with meandering and futuristic indie slow dance. Cameron Allen (drums) and Jeff Haley (bass) manage the rhythm section with stoic authority but also creativity. Considering that the genre-pushing nature of Wild Nothing’s music requires as much, they nail it. This is the core that produced “Hold” as well as “Indigo” (2018).
“Hold” (2023) represents a more anchored, less-dystopian departure from earlier releases, and the context behind the album’s development makes it fairly clear as to why. Tatum began writing “Hold” just after becoming a father (at the onset of the pandemic), precipitating a move back to Virginia from L.A. He sings about this in “Suburban Solutions,” contrasting a domestic, rural lifestyle with the hustle of Los Angeles and musing as to which lifestyle is more or less authentic. The sound is definitely still dreamy and experimental (if not more so), but the lyrics offer more fluent and personal-to-Tatum storytelling elements, as opposed to previously being of a more postmodern and conceptual persuasion.
For example, in “Histrion,” Tatum takes us through a nightmare that it would seem has persisted since he first began performing live, serenading us through a scenario in which he gets on stage and forgets all the words:
While the crowd is up and leaving
No roses for the fool I’ve been…
I Think I see the light
Could I ever play in time?
Don’t recall a single line…
A big crane pulls me high…
I wake up
There’s something reassuring about an artist as accomplished as Tatum sharing this level of insecurity. Of course, it’s sung and composed beautifully.
Chicago is the last stop on a somewhat abridged tour post-release of “Hold,” and given this is a town where this kind of music has been celebrated for a long time, it should be a hell of a time.
Wild Nothing performs at House of Blues, Monday, November 20; doors at 7:30pm. Tickets $32.50 here.