Through his first three full-length albums and two EPs, Jack Tatum, through his project Wild Nothing, made effortless, lo-fi dream-pop. The records were made for intimate moments in the bedroom, whether with a friend, your partner, or alone. The Virginia Tech alumnus, however, goes hi-fi and widescreen on Indigo.

If his debut Gemini and follow-up LPs, Nocturne and Life of Pause, are the equivalent of watching Netflix, Indigo is pure cinema. Eighties cinema to be precise. The music is still dreamy and engaging, but the music is bolder and more ambitious. At times, it borders closely on synth-pop and dance-pop, where groovy textures replace breathtaking elements. His stories and lyrics, too, give off the vibes of iconic pop-culture films, such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and Adventures in Babysitting. The blustery “Oscillation” is a anthemic ’80s, creating the feeling that one is running through the streets with the wind at her back. This isn’t a race nor an attempt to escape something. Instead, it’s a rush to be close to the person you love.

This classic tale of chasing after love is repeated on the bouncy “Through Windows”, which recalls Roxy Music with its toe-tapping melodies and infusion of jazzy saxophones. Conversely on “Shallow Water”, Tatum describes the floating feeling that comes with finding love. The track resembles closely Wild Nothing’s earlier efforts with its lush and cool demeanor. That is until the bridge arrives, at which time the song turns into ecstasy. It’s simply blissful, particularly as he sings: 

“When everything was quiet for a while,
There’s nothing left for us to reconcile.” 

Tatum also dabbles in other well-known ’80s themes, such as seeking the comfort of home on “Flawed Translation. Tatum’s dissonant bass line stars on this ravishing and sensual tune. No film nor album of this era would be complete without a moment of reflection and trying to move forward, and “Letting Go” fills the gap in multiple ways. Lyrically, Tatum expresses his desire to be set free from the image and memories of a certain person. This is “surreal, the way you made me out / the way you crash me down”. Musically, though, the track calls to mind the brilliance of Gemini, yet nothing seems derivative or rehashed. The urgent energy is transfixing and delivers unexpected twists and turns along the way.

A dark, sensual calmness bellows through “Partners in Motion”, which is one part Genesis and another part Dire Straits with its watercolor synths and sizzling sax. The song is the most vintage on the album, and Tatum’s lyrics recall the days of white picket fences and the perfect family. Conversely on the wistful and piano-driven “Wheel of Misfortune”, Tatum examines the perpetual cycle that governs people’s life.

“Look at us, all fools in traffic,
Simple creatures of habit.
Admiration left too long,
A bad taste for such a sweet song.”

But in some cases, one must break free, which is tackled on the cathartic “Canyon on Fire”. Gritty guitars, soothing synths, and a pulsating bass line converge to form a shimmering melody that escalates into an exhilarating experience. An experience that is urgent and desperate, yet filled with uncertainty. With a reference to Los Angeles and Tatum wanting “to see how other people live”, the song is his own personal anthem. His story of moving across the country to start a new life and in the process evolve. No longer is he just the master of bedroom intimacy, but Tatum has scored a brilliant piece of cinematic pop.

Indigo is out now via Captured Tracks, and it can be ordered here and at Bandcamp.

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