There’s nothing on this Earth I smile at more than hearing or seeing a major improvement happen before me. Well, I take that back — I also smile whenever I know there’s fresh cantaloupe in my midst. But really, I’m hoping everyone reading this review of Wild Nothing’s sophomore LP Nocturne has had a chance to listen to the band’s first effort, Gemini, because we have a major improvement on our hands.

2010’s Gemini was a pretty strong debut to begin with from what was initially a bedroom project created by Virginian Jack Tatum. Hearing it a couple of years later, it still has a bit of that indie pop poignancy, but from start to finish, Wild Nothing’s Nocturne just sounds like the majorly accomplished second record that most debut acts find hard to pull off on their next go. When comparing the two, you (I) can’t help but smile knowing that Nocturne is everything bigger, better, and relentlessly more surprising, with a production quality and style that Gemini only pricked the surface of.

So, without having listened to the first album, does Nocturne stand on its own and have that same grin-inducing sensation? Quite a bit, actually. If you fancy an album that infuses ’80s New Wave into the eclectic indie pop scene of today, then Nocturne will have you from the second it opens to the second it closes.

From the fade in on album opener “Shadow,” Nocturne‘s musical course is apparent. The song’s got a phaser-effect guitar hook that’s just indelible, supported by a rock-steady bass line and a string arrangement that those familiar with Coldplay’s later efforts will probably recognize. Even my mentioning of Coldplay is a bit epic — the song has Wild Nothing explore a bigger territory that leaps beyond their indie roots. The trajectory continues with “Midnight Song,” which is short, sweet, and believably large-sounding, as if Tatum knew this would be the track to play at venues.

The great thing Wild Nothing seems to have here that was noticeably absent from Gemini is a knack for consistency. I’m not suggesting every track sounds the same, but rather the tracks play like waves moving in with the tide, motioning a brisk listen through eleven songs. Perhaps that’s appropriate, then, considering the album is a nod to the phases of the moon and how that interacts with the ocean’s waters.

The infusion of ’80s New Wave in modern music is nothing new, but Nocturne acts as if it is and wears the combination cleanly on its record sleeve. Tracks like “This Chain Won’t Break” and “Paradise” relish in the echoy and surreal guitar instrumentals and electronic drum kits that practically dominated ’80s pop. There’s a sense that Tatum either fully understands the genre and milks its potential or that he simply finds these sounds enjoyable and thinks that you should too. Appreciation is a better word for all of that — Nocturne is an album filled to the brim with ’80s appreciation and absent of any pretentiousness.

Nocturne leaves little to be desired by album’s end as it achieves exactly what it set out to do from the get-go. The album may not leap in any new directions as far as music is concerned, but it leaps in new directions as far as Wild Nothing is concerned. Tatum elevates his status as a frontman by going big and not going home, and considering this was a “home” project, I’m pretty sure all he wants to do now is hit the road to share his ’80s passion with you all. He’s garnered a following that will now expand, as he is undoubtedly ready to step up to the plate to churn out bigger and bolder surprises in the future.

It’s great to see how much Tatum has matured, with his frequently surprising ambition nurturing this project into something bigger in scope. Nocturne is a nice breath of fresh air for sounds that may be a bit prevalent in indie pop at the moment, and it’s a vast improvement that I can’t help but feel proud of (even though I had nothing more to do with the album than to listen to it and review it here). Now stop reading and listen to this thing.

Wild Nothing’s Nocture is available August 28th via Captured Tracks. For more info, visit Wild Nothing’s website.