Album Review - Nap Eyes' "Whine of the Mystic"

By Brittanny Bickman

Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes, with a self-described “crooked, literate guitar pop” sound, announce the release the first full-length album Whine of the Mystic. According to the band’s press release, the secret behind the raw energy present in their recordings is their reliance on live tracking without overdubs, creating an atmosphere that is as close to a live performance as possible. The result is a natural and airy quality that brings the open sound of the room into the songs to create a relatable appeal in the band’s recordings.

Vocally, Nigel Chapman presents an unassuming, lazy drawl reminiscent at times of The Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas and of Television’s Tom Verlaine at other times, allowing the unique tone and timbre of his voice to guide the progression of each song. The result is a feeling that the singer is putting minimal effort into his performance to give each song a cool and stylish sound.

The minimalist aspect of Nap Eyes is not limited to the vocal performance. The drums on Whine of the Mystic sound as if they are purposely held back from distracting from the rest of the album. Drummer Seamus Dalton rarely unleashes his talents to the use of the full drum kit, but it is evident that he has honed in his talents to appropriate use of the kit to compliment the rest of the band. Dalton relies on a much more percussive approach to this drumming on many songs, which is a welcomed change from the standard bass-highhat-snare approach that many rock drummers rely on.

The first track on Whine of the Mystic, "Dark Creedence," is a standout song on the album and seems to be the best representation of the style that the band is presumably going for. The simplistic build up with a pounding drum beat and swirling guitars culminates in a climactic ending that is not overdone with an escalation in sound or attack on the instruments, but relies on a droning and building background noise to drive the song to its end.

On "Make Something," the band slows down and presents a sound bordering on a “ballad” without losing the signature apathetic, occasionally gloomy, appeal. Chapman laments “By and large my only success comes from the things I do grudgingly” in a voice that is suitable to the tone of the song. “Tribal Thoughts” picks up the beat of the album again, with Chapman attempting to belt out the title of the song in a pitch that may just be out of his range, but somehow still works with his vocal aesthetic. The song, which quickly becomes repetitive and directionless, is mercifully cut short at 2:33 allowing the audience to fully appreciate it without losing interest.

It is on the fourth song, "Delirium and Persecution Paranoia", that it becomes evident that there is an audience made for the droning, drawling, and sometimes dull approach that Nap Eyes takes to their brand of rock music. Clocking in at 7 minutes and 18 seconds, it is clear that Nap Eyes does not intend to cut every song short to avoid boring their fans, but instead writes their music to appeal to their own ears and the tastes of their intended audience. However, if you have the patience to follow along, there are plenty of extra musical treats to be found (typically in the form of creative guitar solos or the introduction of melodic noise).

"No Man Needs to Care" brings the energy back up but leaves the listener hoping for the band to change up the feeling of the song or bring in some diverse ideas to liven up the song halfway through. The change of pace comes with the next track, "Dreaming Solo", a sleepy, atmospheric song with lyrics to match the dreary feel of the song “Will my friends know me there? // Will they see me there? // Will they even want me there? // I don’t know”. In an uncharacteristic move for much of the album, the song picks up halfway through and takes a few interesting musical twists and turns that make the listener glad they stuck with it until the end.

"The Night of the First Show" is a pleasant, earnest song which is apparently about the band’s first show. Here, the band name drops themselves “On the night of Nap Eyes very first show” and I began expecting to hear an adorable story about their first show. Like many songs, the song soon takes a dark turn lyrically as Chapman moans "Not one of my friends is with me til the end // Most of my friends they just diss me”. This is the first song that a possible vocal influence from The Smiths’ Morrissey presents itself, and it is a welcome addition to the band’s sound.

"Oh My Friends" is another ballad on the album which brings a favorable, swaying sound to the band with staggered drums and a consistent lead guitar riff to direct the song. Chapman has the chance to shine on this track and, although it seems as if he barely takes a breath, there is never a time that the lyrics or vocal melodies feel intrusive. The closing song “No Fear of Hellfire” is one of the groovier songs on the album and once the tambourine kicks in about halfway through the song. The head bobbing begins and you realize that in spite of the gloomy lyrics and vocal styling, Nap Eyes enjoys what they are doing and does it incredibly well.

Whine of the Mystic is an album that will be most appreciated by fans of the genre of music that Nap Eyes is influenced by, including Modern Lovers, Lou Reed, and countless others. To the average listener unfamiliar with this sound, there may be times in the album that you won’t fully “get” what the band is going for, but one thing is certain: this band knows the style they love and want to play and has mastered it on their first full length. Overall, Whine of the Mystic is a consistent, stylistic and fun album that will be a great introduction to the band for new fans and should solidify what fans of the band already know and love about Nap Eyes.

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