Nap Eyes’ Thought Rock Fish Scale

cover artNap Eyes is an indie-rock quartet out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their new album Thought Rock Fish Scale is a tuneful, catchy trip through the kind of angst that might trouble a young biochemist obsessed with guitars, words and rock music. That’d be Nigel Chapman, the songwriter and singer of the group, who at his most relaxed channels the deadpan delivery of Lou Reed crossed with the faux naivete of Jonathan Richman.

Musically, Nap Eyes’ clean guitars, unfussy production, and generally stripped-down songs make them sound to me like certain Scottish bands, particularly the power pop-Americana outfit Dropkick. Makes sense for a Nova Scotia outfit, I guess. The group is rounded out by Brad Loughead on lead guitar, Josh Salter on bass and Seamus Dalton drums, all of whom play with nearly severe restraint. Sonically, the group leans toward old-school soul, say of the Muscle Shoals variety.

The album was recorded under a set of self-imposed limits. They set themselves a mere four days to capture as many songs as possible completely live, with no overdubs, on an old four-track quarter-inch tape recorder. It was recorded in the living room and screened porch of a seaside family home near Pictou, a small Nova Scotia town whose name comes from the Mi’kmaq word for “explosion.”

One of the highlights of the album is the opener “Mixer,” about existential and other kinds of crises stemming from an awkward Friday night party. The beautiful soulful bass line contrasts with the nerdy banality of Chapman’s lyrics and his deadpan delivery, alternating between straightforward descriptions of socially awkward situations and the philosophical musings they prompt. The kernel is revealed in the bridge verse: “It’s easy to understand what it is that makes me feel this way, not so easy to make all of my problems go away…”

“Stargazer” finds him musing on his penchant for trying to please other people. Here’s a sharp studio performance video of this song.

The slow, languid post-hangover ballad “Lion In Chains” has a deliberate low-fi sound like a kitchen-table tape, with the vocals pushed far forward and the band in the background. “Don’t Be Right” is a short and bittersweet monologue of advice to himself, amid recriminations about mistakes made in relationships. “I thought I should talk, but man, I guess I shoulda listened,” he sings in”Click Clack,” a gentle rocker with a calypso-style beat.

Chapman’s tunes on Thought Rock Fish Scale are deceptively simple-sounding and his lyrics come off like diary entries but are actually finely crafted. The results can be insanely catchy. Give it a try. Nap Eyes is touring North America in March and April. Dates are on the Paradise of Bachelors website.

Paradise of Bachelors, 2016

About Gary Whitehouse

Gary has been reviewing music, books and more at the Green Man Review since sometime in the previous Millennium. He lives in a mostly hipster-free part of Oregon, where he enjoys dogs, books, music, the outdoors, and craft beer, cider, and coffee.