Nap Eyes: Snapshot of a Beginner (Jagjaguwar/Royal Mountain/Paradise of Bachelors) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, June 4th, 2020  

Nap Eyes

Snapshot of a Beginner

Jagjaguwar/Royal Mountain/Paradise of Bachelors

Mar 27, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Evolution and epiphany are at the front of Nigel Chapman’s mind on Snapshot of a Beginner. The growth is indeterminate and the visions are fleeting. “I’m so tired, of trying to recreate...Though I feel inspired, then a moment later find I’ve been too late,” he confesses on the opening wind-up “So Tired.” The album, though, is an unequivocal step forward for Nap Eyes.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, four-piece have made minor adaptations with each of their three prior albums, but Snapshot of a Beginner fully delivers on the Maritime pastoral sound they’ve innately promised for years, and credit is due all around. Guitarist/vocalist Chapman, guitarist Brad Loughead, drummer Seamus Dalton, and bassist Josh Salter have all stretched themselves as musicians and songwriters; the Velvet Underground and Dylan overtones that colored earlier albums Whine of the Mystic and Thought Rock Fish Scale have faded into the background. Crucial too are the production values and guidance afforded these eleven songs by recording them at The National’s Long Pond Studio with keen producers James Elkington and Jonathan Low.

In a word, Nap Eyes sound big on Snapshot of a Beginner, but they do so in a way that manages not to be antithetical to that thin, half-wild mercury sound that they’ve established up to this point. Here they are full-screen and three-dimensional; deep and blue on “Mystery Calling,” ecstatic and amber as “Primordial Soup” spills over. Yet they remain wiry, unsettled and often on the edge of an outburst or a withdrawal.

“I stood on the edge of the sea/And I wondered why all this was made around me/And I wondered why I should be/So free and happy/So sad and chained,” Chapman ponders on “Primordial Soup.” Flashes of Romanticism are scattered across Snapshot of a Beginner, but does nature exist to offer these realizations to humankind, or are we digging for them in indifferent soil? “We walked across the bramble/You pointed to the squirrel run/And listened to me though I ramble,” Chapman remembers on “Fool Thinking Ways.” “And that’s when it happened to me/That the change in my thinking set me free/Only for a moment/And then I fell back to my fool thinking ways….” There’s an acknowledgement that progress doesn’t always stick, that revelations can flit away like small forest creatures.

Heavy ideas in the hands of Nap Eyes get juggled with levity, lead single “Mark Zuckerberg” being the most overtly light-hearted. Wandering a Halifax park at night with thoughts of the Facebook founder as a ghost who collects sand, Chapman runs into three modern day sirens—a trio of teenagers smoking weed out of an apple, singing “Transcendence is all around us.” The moment is absurd, but in that absurdity is something honest and small-scale sublime, and that is Nap Eyes’ sweet spot on Snapshot of a Beginner. (www.napeyes.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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