Nap Eyes: Snapshot of a Beginner

It’s a bit of an oversimplification to say that Nap Eyes sounds like a modern day Velvet Underground. Sure, Nigel Chapman’s vocals are indeed reminiscent of Lou Reed, but that is merely one detail about a band that has multiple strengths and influences. Nap Eyes, a quartet hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, consists of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Nigel Chapman, lead guitarist Brad Loughead, bassist Josh Salter, and drummer Seamus Dalton. They have been releasing music since 2011, with their debut album Whine of the Mystic being released in 2014. Now on their fourth album, this year’s Snapshot of a Beginner, on Jagjaguwar, the band wield their well-honed songwriting skills and a cleaner-than-ever sound to produce their most ambitious album at the most confident point of their career.

Directly off the bat, Chapman dives into introspective lyrics on the opening track “So Tired,” a theme which will recur throughout the album. Speaking to himself in the third person, he declares frankly: “Nigel, you’re so scared of people trying to control your life and criticize you.” Accompanied with twangy guitars and an easygoing tempo, the track tips its hat to latter 90s-era Pavement, and does well to establish the base the album sits upon. Whether the band was trying to accomplish this effect or not will likely remain unknown, but if there was ever an opening track that felt like a direct invitation for you to sit back and kick your feet up, this would be it.

Chapman’s lyrics turn from self-directed to comical and sarcastic on the lead single “Mark Zuckerberg.” The track is a playful poke at the tech tycoon’s mannerisms in the public eye, all backed by an earworm of an instrumental. As charming of a song as it is, it may very well leave you pondering certain questions you never anticipated asking yourself: Is Mark Zuckerberg a ghost? Where are his hands? Why don’t we ever see them in public? These are some of life’s biggest questions.

The near-eight minute long “Real Thoughts” starts off promisingly with a guitar lick reminiscent of “Paint It, Black” that launches into a Kurt Vile-esque instrumental. However, after the groove has been established for only a few minutes, the song begins to suffer from “chugging”; that is, the song continuing on the same track without ample deviation from what has already been happening in the song, or experimentation to keep the song interesting. There simply aren’t enough musical ideas present on this song to justify its runtime. Granted, on the bright side, one of Loughead’s strongest moments as a lead guitarist are showcased on this song when he performs a soaring, psych-infused solo near the middle point of the song that serves as a welcome addition to a song that was veering close to monotony. But then, just like that, the song jumps back into familiar territory and remains there for the rest of its duration.

Ironically, the most repeat-ready song out of all eleven titles on the album is the least instrumentally dense: “Dark Link.” An infectious guitar line by Loughead coupled with sparse percussion create a sort of dark, but not depressing, atmosphere, almost as if one is wandering through a jungle on a quest. This is not coincidental, as the lyrics are chock full of Legend of Zelda references, which will no doubt put a smile on any fan of the franchise’s face. Chapman’s vocal melody is a perfect compliment to the instruments.

Overall, Snapshot is no triumph, but it does succeed in bringing crisp, fun, and colorful rock music to anyone who may need a get-me-up.

Recommended If You Like: Pavement, Woods, Destroyer, Alex G, Kurt Vile
Recommended Tracks: 2 (Primordial Soup), 4 (Mark Zuckerberg), 8 (Dark Link)
Do Not Play: None
Written by Christian Lemesany on 04/16/2020