Because Hold, Jack Tatum’s fifth album under the moniker Wild Nothing, was written in the aftermath of new parenthood during the pandemic, it was probably inevitable that it would be searching and existential music. But during the recording process, the artist known for synth-pop tastefulness used it as an opportunity to reach for a new sonic maximalism and wider set of influences. With contributions from longtime collaborator Jorge Elbrecht, Tommy Davidson of Beach Fossils and Hatchie’s Harriette Pilbeam, first single “Headlights On” features an acid house-worthy bass groove and breakbeat that prove Tatum is playing for the rafters.
Tatum produced the rest of the record on his own, partially out of necessity, due to the challenges of the pandemic. The songs were eventually brought to Adrian Olsen at Montrose Recording in Richmond to begin recording drums and filling in the gaps. While largely a product of isolation, Hold also reflects the things Tatum has learned from collaborators, both on previous records and during his acclaimed work with Japanese Breakfast and Molly Burch. The rest of the record was mixed by Geoff Swan, who listeners might know for his work with Caroline Polachek and Charli XCX. Swan put Tatum’s vocals high in the mix, and throughout the album, he embraces playful vocal processing like never before.
Tatum moved from Los Angeles back to his home state of Virginia about five years ago in search of a scaled-back lifestyle. The relatively suburban environment—and the occasional regret it inspired—proved to be great artistic fodder. It’s the para- dox of modern America—the suburbs are supposed to be stultifying to art, but they are so full of human desperation perfect for dramatizing. On “Suburban Solutions”, he presents an anti-jingle with an acidly bright synthesizer melody, imploring you to sign on the dotted line, put your feet up, and embrace sweet oblivion.
Adding to the song’s menacing cheeriness is a chorus-sung bridge, made with assistance from Molly Burch and Tatum’s wife, Dana, It was loosely inspired by the classic Martika song “Toy Soldiers” and the long-ago pop craze for children’s choirs, and he embraces the trend’s less-than-stellar reputation. By design, Hold dwells in uncertainty and fear, but in a package that encourages meditation and a bit of fun. “In the face of the pandemic, I think being a parent really forced my hand,” Tatum said. “I felt that I had no other choice but to have a positive outlook on the world. Because if I were to give in at any moment and say, “Oh, everything is horrible,” then I’ll feel as if I’ve lost and I’ve given up on my son being able to thrive in this world.”