With a cotton-mouthed charm and subtle sonic ambition, Nap Eyes are one of Canada's most formidable indie rock bands. But the Halifax-based four-piece, formed in 2007, aren't complacent veterans; their fourth album Snapshot of a Beginner is out today, and more than ever, Nap Eyes sound comfortable exploring what makes them unique.
Snapshot is a collection of hard-taught lessons, deep emotions, and goofing around all pondered upon while sinking into the deepest, plushest sofa cushion. It comes with an added polish to the recording, which couldn't have come at a better time: frontman Nigel Chapman has long garnered comparisons to Lou Reed, but his voice never had that smirking quality, and that's clear on the new album. When Chapman sings, you hear his voice searching for the most authentic transmission of the emotion possible, whether it's self-doubt ("Mystery Calling"), ironic conspiracy theory ("Mark Zuckerberg"), or a surprisingly touching retelling of the mythos behind the Zelda games ("Dark Link"). A wider range of instruments than previous projects like synths and steel pedal guitars add a touch of Eno-indebted folk ("When I Struck Out On My Own"), and help the group to personalize the mundane and transcend the trappings of slacker rock.
Part of what makes Nap Eyes special is the guitar solos, handled by Brad Loughead. I was fortunate enough to see the band open for Destroyer at the beginning of the month, and Loughead's remarkable fretwork — psychedelic, impetuous, and caterwauling all at once — elevated the band's live presence considerably. Over email, Loughead named the guitar solos that have inspired him the most throughout his career.