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. Nigel Chapman’s barroom philosophising vocals and lyrics, backed by the rest of the bands ram shackle charm and set to a displaced beat and off kilter guitars set them apart from their peers. Now they’ve returned with their follow up Thought Rock Fish Scale.
The line "Mixer on a Friday night, some pretty girls and guys are here. But when I look at myself on my right, I wondering if I’m really here?" kicks the album off perfectly and for the next 33 minutes Nap Eyes ask questions of mortality, faith, friendship and ultimately self-doubt. It sounds like Pavement, circa-1999, playing a stripped down Stax Records house band slow jam. At the chorus Chapman’s monotone voice rises, but the music carries on drifting as before. At first it’s slightly annoying that the music doesn’t explode and take the song to another level, but after repeat listens, you realise that this lack of impact really sells the song. Nap Eyes could follow the trend, but they don’t. And this is their power. Instead of doing what we think they should, they constantly surprise us by doing something else instead. Where a solo should be, they keep the rhythm going a little long. ‘Stargazer’ takes a simple sounding riff, but loops it until it becomes hypnotic. Stand out track ‘Lion in Chains’ is a slow-jam that with lines like "Steep is the cost when the dreams of love are broken. Gruelling the workshop where they’re put back together in time. I saw goldmines and a different kind of token. Here at the arcade I sent about 45,000 dimes!" make him sound like sound like Lou Reed hanging out with Guided by Voices. The album closes with ‘Trust’. Through jumbled guitars and drums, and rambling lyrics like "Trust, trust, come on trust me" it brings the album to an almost perfect close.
This is an album for late night drinking sessions, or late night drives, but never at the same time. The droney guitars and Chapman’s monotone vocals speak perfectly to someone who is locked into a simple task that will take hours, namely getting hammered or travelling long distances. The woozy nature of the guitars fits perfectly into someone needing a soundtrack for boozing. As you get more and more inebriated it all starts to make sense and sound in tune, making it the best thing you’ve ever heard!
While Thought Rock Fish Scale isn’t as lo-fi as 2014’s Whine of the Mystic it’s hardly Sgt. Pepper. The whole album still has the feel of a rehearsal that has been recorded so that they can play it back later and see what they’ve got. It appears that most of it made it to the finished album as there aren’t any overdubs or tracking going on. Thought Rock Fish Scale is one of the most enjoyable and insightful albums released this year so far.
8Nick Roseblade's Score