Sometimes how we perceive the world around us is simply a matter of which side of the bed we woke up on that morning. If you’ve listened to Jack Tatum’s previous two albums as Wild Nothing—2010′s dreamy Gemini and 2012′s majestic Nocturne—then you’ll take notice immediately upon listening to Empty Estate that these songs sound like Tatum woke up on the “better” side of the bed for the 10 day stretch of time during which the EP was recorded.
The band’s debut record, Gemini, introduced Tatum as a dream-poppin’ shoe-gazin’ Robert Smith of few words. Nocturne solidified that image, serving as a sublime soundtrack for alluring nights of early twenty-something apathy. The tracks on Nocturne merge, as a whole, to depict an array of enchanting evenings with woebegone endings. On tracks like “Paradise” Tatum played the role of seductor, singing, “Dancer in the night/Playing with my eyes/Velvet tongue so sweet/Say anything you like.” If Nocturne captured everything from the magnetism of two bodies meeting on a dimly lit dance floor to the fumbling in the dark disappointment, then Empty Estate is the soundtrack for the morning after when the girl isn’t an elusive femme fatale anymore.
You don’t have to go through the lyrics with a fine-tooth comb to notice the polar opposite dispositions of Nocturne and Empty Estate. Where Nocturne resolutely states “I’d go with you if you asked me to/But we wouldn’t get too far/Two strangers in the dark”, on Empty Estate, Tatum deliveries his lines in a love-subdued chimerical tone. “On the bed in the evening/She is mine to keep/We are nothing like strangers,” he sings over a plush synth and a pungent ’80s base line on “Ocean Repeating (Big-Eyed Girl).” The heavy vocal layering on “Ride” is an invitation and an indication that this is not a compilation of songs empathetic to the brooding disillusioned dorm room pop to which Nocturne aspired. Tatum has more grown up concerns here.
Back in April, the single from Empty Estate, “Dancing Shell,” foreshadowed that this EP might find Tatum dabbling in more adventurous sounds. It’s still a strange song: Tatum singing “I’m not a human/I’m just a body/Just a dancing shell” alongside a pitch-bending synth coupled with a bass that wallops like a washed up disco junkie’s pulse. The song is still an odd and alluring highlight but it’s hardly indicative of what the rest of the album sounds like. “Dancing Shell” is by far funkiest track you’ll find on Empty Estate. “The Body In Rainfall” and “Data World” are both extremely chipper songs with SuperBall bouncing melodies. The latter contains a synth hook that wouldn’t be far out of place in a Matt And Kim track.
But along with those two strut-a-long songs there are also two unexpected instrumental tracks, “On Guyot” and “Hachiko,” that nestle themselves in quite cozily on the EP. On these tracks Tatum is able to achieve dream-pop catharsis without his usual poetic pop hooks. “On Guyot” is especially charming—a guyot is an isolated underwater volcanic flat-top mountain, the ideal place to soak in the concept of the perfect dream-pop girl, right? “On Guyot” comes right after the fatuously possessive love anthem “Ocean Repeating (Big-Eyed Girl),” and the rippling synth and soft static beat offers a chance to wrap one’s mind around all the induced fanaticism found throughout this sprite, beguiling collection of songs.