In less than a minute of listening to opener, “Mixer,” you can tell that Nigel Chapman’s (the songwriter, lead singer and guitarist of Nap Eyes) favourite Velvet Underground album is their 1969 self-titled release. In many ways, the ethos of The Velvet’s intimate masterpiece is channelled via The Vaselines, The Clean, The Shins and The Go-Betweens in Thought Rock Fish Scale: a self-contained, beautiful and understatedly smart album. In fact, that ethos is captured quite well in lyrics from album centrepiece “Alaskan Shake:” “People recognize you in the night, they recognize you’re wrong / They recognize you’re right, even when you feel wrong / It’s the reason they listen when you make a song.”
With those charming words (and many others) Halifax’s Nap Eyes cash in on the promise of intelligent quiet rock songs with glimmers of psychedelia drowned in Alexander Keith’s that their debut Whine of the Mystic gave us. However, Thought Rock Fish Scale is a less rollicking, airier, and more meditative affair than their debut. For their sophomore release Nap Eyes traded in the dark alleys of Montreal for the north coast of Nova Scotia, where they recorded the entire album live to four-track tape. And this is definitely an album that is shaped by its setting. It’s as if the sea breeze eroded away everything superfluous and left us with a raw set of literate guitar pop songs.
In bringing these songs to life Chapman is joined by fellow Haligonians — and members of Mint Records’ signees Monomyth — Josh Salter (bass), Seamus Dalton (drums) and Brad Loughead (lead guitar). Together these four musicians use negative space and deceptively simple instrumentals to build sonic settings where Chapman’s lyrics about friendship, self-doubt and self-discovery come to life. On the bass-driven, subtly groovy “Don’t be Right” Chapman doesn’t mince words singing “Don’t be right — it isn’t good for you.” Instead of being right Nap Eyes strives to be true, whether it be in the cheekiest of lines like “The light is hot / Just like the singers of our favourite bands” or in the recognition that “Sometimes, drinking, I don’t know my best friend from my best friend.” After 32 minutes the album fades out with Chapman singing “Want you to trust, trust, trust, trust me.” And by the end of the album I do.