Is it the most terrible thing in the world for your voice to sound eerily similar to that of a dead, iconic rock legend? I could think of worse things to saddle a singer with, and Nap Eyes’s Nigel Chapman certainly isn’t labouring under the burden of being young Lou Reed’s vocal doppelgänger. What sets Chapman apart is his lyrics; he’s never at a loss for words when it comes to describing his loner/loser/lost-soul ruminations on Thought Rock Fish Scale, the Nova Scotia based band’s second full length of mellow paced slack rock.
Thought Rock Fish Scale is an unplugged record, not in the acoustic sense, but in that it feels very disconnected from our hyper-technology based world and sound bites, samples, and snap chats. It’s refreshing to look over a lyric sheet that feels like a book of poetry rather than a collection of one-liners. Chapman’s conversational singing style suits the wordiness of his introspective balladry, making melody by tapping into the emotional weight of the words he’s singing and not through rhyming couplets. “Steep is the cost when the dreams of love are broken,” he intones on the languid and epic “Lion in Chains”, finishing the verse with “Grueling the workshop where they’re put back together in time / I saw gold mines and a different kind of token / Here at the arcade I spent about 45 000 dimes”.
Not your typical pop rock sing-a-long earworm, but just as memorable, if not more so. Chapman’s observations are far more personal than universal, very first-person centric comments that occasionally need context to be understood (it helps to know that his day job is working in a lab when he sings about the hot water being turned off in it), but always make sense. On “Don’t Be Right” he warns someone about self-righteousness truth: “You play the game and then you wish that you didn’t win… Heavy with moral learning, you grumble and bite.” The song is most clearly directed at a certain someone in a particular predicament, but could just as easily apply to listeners’ real life experiences.
For a record as unhurried and relaxed as Thought Rock Fish Scale is, its eight songs are over far too soon, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. Still within that time, Nap Eyes take the scenic route and the roads less traveled on their journey. Like their Atlantic coast homeland, Nap Eyes’s musical landscape is consistently salty, chilled, and rolling, but there are plenty of warm and cozy alcoves along the way to offer respite and local colour. In Chapman’s own words, “Sing songs by the fire awhile / Hear our stories, my child / Don’t you fear that train chugging, / train chugging In thy head.”
Nap Eyes, Thought Rock Fish Scale
You’ve Changed Records, February 5, 2016