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Music Review: Wild Nothing – Gemini

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Wild Nothing is the solo project of Virginian Jack Tatum, formerly of punk band Facepaint. He's abandoned jagged guitars and angst for the hazy sounds of late-80s dream-pop bands like Cocteau Twins, and the glorious mope rock of the Cure and the Smiths. Like other millennial retroists Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi, Tatum turns to the sounds of yesteryear to express the feelings of now.The album is full of reverberated guitars, shimmering synths, and tinny drum machines. While Tatum played bass on the album, it lacks low ends. Gemini is the opposite of funky: sexless, pining, trading on romantic yearning rather than physical excess.

"Our lips won't last forever and that's why I'd rather live in dreams and I'd rather die," he sings on opening track "Live In Dream," capturing the adolescent melodrama that fills the album. Gemini is the soundtrack of fledgling relationships, of unrequited crushes, of being young and happily melancholy. Tatum wrote all the songs and played the instruments, which at times results in navel-gazing. He's touring with a full band, which should make both the sound and themes of the music fuller and less introspective.

The album is dead-on 80s, and if you didn't know better you'd swear it came out twenty-odd years ago. Tatum doesn't merely emulate the sounds of the 80s, however, he internalizes them and makes them his own. Gemini is sincere and honest, and there is real emotion underneath the layer of synths and reverb.

Gemini's one failing is that while it is very successful as a sound, it is less successful as an album-length listening experience. In that sense, it reminded me of the Pains of Being Pure of Heart's debut: awesome in small bites, but a bit monotonous as a whole.  Many of the songs sound similar, and several, like "Pessimist," seem more like sketches than actual fleshed-out songs.

Still, it's a great sound, and in this day of the iPod and constant shuffle, it's likely that most listeners will digest this one track at a time. While I wasn't totally convinced with Gemini as a whole, I adored it in chunks. "Summer Holiday," Chinatown," and "O, Lilac" will stay in rotation on my iPod for a long time, providing three-minute voyages into an era of big hair and ecstatic heartache.

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