Best New Albums of 2013: #20, Wild Nothing – Empty Estate

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#20: Wild Nothing – Empty Estate (Captured Tracks)

EPs are a good place to experiment and this is full of them. On Empty Estate, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum takes a different approach from last year’s Nocturnes. Where before, he sounded vaguely like The Cure, now the songs are alternately spiky (Ocean Repeating), in debt to power pop (The Body In Rainfall) or collapse into keyboards (Data World). There’s even a saxophone solo! It still sounds very 1980s – When hasn’t he? Remember, he got his start with a Kate Bush cover – but a different kind of 80s.

I think it generally works pretty well, too. The songwriting is just as strong and the hooks are a lot more infectious. At first glance, it’s sunnier than their last full length and a hell of a lot easier to dance to. There’s better videos, too. But the more I listen, the more I can sense the frustration Tatum’s mentioned in interviews. 

Just look at Dancing Shell, for my money the EP’s standout track. Musically, it starts off fun enough: a catchy bassline, sparkling keyboards and choppy guitars. Then you start listening to Tatum’s half-whispered singing: “I’m not a human, I’m just a body,” sings Tatum, “just a dancing shell here to make you happy.” Before you know it, the song’s ending in a wave of cavernous synths, echoing and getting slower and slower and fading away.

At seven songs, it ends rather quickly, but it’s a good appetizer for Wild Nothing fans and I really hope Tatum’s music keeps moving in this direction.




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