Jack Tatum, the only proper member of one-man-band Wild Nothing, has had a productive 2010. In addition to the release of his first full-length, Gemini, he has also put out two follow-up EPs. The second of those, Golden Haze, is a solid — if unsurprising — continuation of the styles explored on Gemini.
Out of Golden Haze’s six tracks, five are new, with the final track “Vultures Like Lovers” having been released earlier as the B-side to the “Summer Holiday” single. The title track opens the EP in expected Wild Nothing fashion, slowly fading in while a jangling, reverb-laden guitar hook repeats itself before Tatum’s vocal enters, as resigned and lovelorn as ever. It’s a gambit Tatum employed with Gemini opener “Live In Dreams,” but it’s still effective, imparting the beginning of the EP with the kind of lo-fi grandeur that was so endearing on Wild Nothing’s debut.
“Quiet Hours” follows, a softer number that serves as a showcase for Tatum’s elliptical and oblique lyrics. “Quiet hours fall to pieces/ Heaven isn’t where you thought/ The dream is dying, fading fast now/ Quiet hours are gone at last.” Two interlocking guitar lines and some synthesizer swells accompany Tatum on this minor gem, that — while distinctly a Wild Nothing song — doesn’t really have an analogue in the rest of Tatum’s catalog. It’s more restrained and confident, relying less on a wall of sound than a few well thought out pieces of instrumental accompaniment and a mature, focused melody.
Unfortunately, the rest of the EP fails to live up to the high standard set by the opening pair of tracks. “Take Me In” and “Your Rabbit Feet,” while certainly not bad songs by any means, are not particularly engaging or memorable. They offer nothing that Tatum hasn’t been more successful in pulling off elsewhere. “Asleep” boasts some interesting ideas and some catchy bits, but it never really feels like the song comes together as a whole. It feels more like a sketch or a demo than a fully realized idea. There was a reason that closer “Vultures Like Lovers” was initially released as a B-side; it’s simply not that interesting. A shimmering loop of a synth figure and a whole lot of reverb are, again, musical tropes Tatum has had far greater success with in more compelling forms.
“It’s not what I want, it’s what I need,” Tatum sings in “Quiet Hours.” It’s perhaps something like this, a compulsion to perform and record music, that leads to Wild Nothing’s prolific but uneven output. For fans of the band, the first two songs are reason enough to justify grabbing the EP, but for those of you who weren’t overly enamored with Gemini, there is probably nothing here that is going to change (or blow) your mind.