Release Date: Feb 5, 2016
Record label: Paradise of Bachelors
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Nova Scotian indie quartet Nap Eyes return with Thought Rock Fish Scale, a thoughtfully distilled companion piece to their 2015 debut, Whine of the Mystic. As with its predecessor, the LP was recorded live to tape with no overdubs, further cementing Nap Eyes' transparent methodology that places songwriting and performance above all else. There is nothing flashy or dramatic about their brand of rock, which has been compared to acts like Bedhead, the Go-Betweens, and most frequently the Velvet Underground, but their spare guitar meditations and the lyrical acuity of frontman and songwriter Nigel Chapman reveal many hidden layers to discover.
Most rock'n'roll singers throw parties. Nap Eyes frontman Nigel Chapman attends mixers—which are basically parties for people who don’t get invited to many. But even those are a bit much; two lines into "Mixer," the elegant, cocktail-clinking song that opens the Halifax quartet’s second record, Chapman is already craning his neck for the exit.
Lo-Fi is on the rise again. Bedroom troubadours the world over and countless DIY labels are showing that you don’t need fancy studios to record a great song, you just need the song. In 2014 Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes released their debut album Whine of the Mystic. Essentially an unedited recording of their practice session, it was as captivating as it was devastating.
“Mixer”, the opening track on Nap Eyes’ second album Thought Rock Fish Scale opens with a description of an indelible memory. Our narrator, voiced by singer Nigel Chapman, is back in high school, at a dance, leaning against the wall of the school gymnasium, watching and thinking. His anxiety and self-doubt turn into kind of an existential questioning, colored by the passing of time.
As befits a record delving into the pros and cons of solitary drinking, Nap Eyes’ critically-applauded 2014 debut Whine Of The Mystic was completed during a series of somnolent nocturnal sessions in urban Montreal. By comparison, the Canadian quartet recorded their elliptically-titled second LP, Thought Rock Fish Scale in a living room of a friend’s seaside home outside their home base of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Captured in just four days on a basic TEAC four-track machine and resolutely free of overdubs, it’s consequently a few shades sunnier than its predecessor and this time round, only the paradoxically jaunty Click Clack lyrically views life through a glass darkly.
In March 2014, Canadian outfit Nap Eyes released 200 copies of their début LP Whine Of The Mystic, presumably foreseeing modest interest. The album stirred up enough interest to demand a subsequent full re-issue though, with the second release seeing a run of 3,000 vinyl copies. Upon reaching a larger audience, the album attracted considerable praise for its subtle psych-folk, with positive comparisons to The Velvet Underground among others.
After releasing their impressive debut, Whine of the Mystic, twice over the last two years (a year after its release in March 2014, it was re-released by You've Changed Records in July of 2015), you can't fault Nap Eyes for wasting no time getting the follow-up out into the world. The Halifax foursome's sophomore record, Thought Rock Fish Scale, pairs the live-to-tape retro philosophy of their debut with a calmer sonic palette, but the restrained guitars and drums ultimately work against the record's success. Where they provided a propulsive force on Whine of the Mystic that complemented Nigel Chapman's introspective drawl, the lack of instrumental weight causes Thought Rock Fish Scale's pleasant rock tracks to breeze by without making much impact.
Location can be an underappreciated facet in rock music. Take Nap Eyes’ second long player, for instance; recorded in a living room in smalltown Nova Scotia, it feels like it was recorded in a living room in smalltown Nova Scotia; sparse, distant, at the edge of events. Eight tracks of unrushed Canadiana, the guitar restrained, Nigel Chapman’s languid vocals sitting high in the mix, inviting comparisons to The Only Ones and late-period Lou Reed.
Halifax’s Nap Eyes recorded their second album live to tape in four days with no overdubs – and it sounds like it. Thought Rock Fish Scale is wonderfully humble, a bare-bones record filled with unfussy pop songs and, as their press release says, “intentional imperfections.” At the band’s centre is Nigel Chapman, whose plain sing-speaking style lies somewhere between Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman and Beat Happening’s Calvin Johnson. Very rarely does it meander outside of his few-note comfort zone.
If last month was teeming with a strong assortment of bouncy electro pop, then this one was chock-full of indie rock releases. Carl wasn't too impressed with most of these month's rock-oriented offerings, including Wolfmother's brazen return, while Juan was somewhat disappointed with those that ….