By: Patrick Grant
Sometimes a pure songwriter that’s a little closer to home than most people whose work you really admire creeps in and makes an impression. The last time I felt this way about a lesser known Canadian songwriter’s work was when JJ Ipsen put out “Entertainment Ordinaire”, with that crushing tune ‘Helium Balloons’, which unfortunately seems to not be online anywhere.
Nap Eyes are a bit of an anomaly in the current musical landscape: a deconstructionist Canadian garage band from East of here (Halifax/Montreal) whose songwriting is strong, and whose playing is raw and articulate. Moreover, they’re getting a fistful of nice press from people who seem genuinely eager to explain what they like about the group.
Most of the press surrounding the band’s new album Thought Rock Fish Scale tends to focus on two things. First, the fact that the singer, Nigel Chapman, is a scientist. (Ed. Note: A biochemical researcher, in fact!) Second, that the new album is more laid back than its predecessor, Whine of the Mystic. The bells and whistles of this music come in the form of subtle dynamic and rhythmic shifts that emphasize Chapman’s impressionistic parables about anxiety, personhood, faith, nostalgia, and thinking too much about all of the above.
In the liner notes of the album, there’s a long rumination on a poem that is described as having a ”weirdly devastating weight”. You can read it here . The same is true of the comfortable non-position of Chapman’s speaker in these tunes, grinding inwardly about his place in humanity and the place in history of a particular moment in time. I’m reminded of the cartoon meme with the smiling dog who says, “this is fine”, as his house burns down around him.
There’s a lot of private delight to take in these lyrics — here’s my personal favourite from each album:
“Lion in Chains” from Thought Rock Fish Scale
“The Night Of The First Show” from Whine of the Mystic
The structure of that last verse! There’s so much unpacking that can be done, but I’d rather encourage any reader here to just spark a ting and listen to the songs on repeat because they warrant that kind of attention.
In a time where a lot of this country’s popular independent music is inextricable from gear fetishism, DAW driven live sets that feel like a product demo, and bizarre pop culture think tanks, it’s refreshing to hear a set of songs that live or die based on lyric, melody, and the captured feeling of a band’s real chemistry. You’ve Changed Records and Paradise Of Bachelors certainly executed an effective little release of this material over the past 12 months, but for once it feels as though the music is actually worthy of the amount of time and hoopla that goes into marketing these days.
Come to the show and drink too much beer and quietly postulate about God and man while exchanging pleasantries with your friends and acquaintances. Lord knows, I’ll be there.
Nap Eyes plays the Garrison (1197 Dundas W) on April 7th (that’s tonight!).