Upon first listen, Nova Scotia, Canada natives Nap Eyes‘ I’m Bad Now felt like nothing but a snarky stoner’s revelry. Too zonked or tired out to outgrow the comfortable Loaded era Velvet Underground, Nashville or SoCal instrumental trappings, the album on first listen quite frankly felt very flat.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Like an unglazed clay pot viewed at first from a distance, Nigel Chapman’s rich lyrical details reveal themselves like thoughtful patterns carefully etched into the surface with a surprising amount of attention to detail and clarity upon closer inspection. Chapman’s lyrics, delivered with a Lou Reed-meets-Steven Malkmus-esque dry listlessness serve as a pitch perfect contrast to the weighty album themes of existential meaninglessness and sadness.
In the hands of a less capable songwriter, these musings would have just come off as some stoned pseudo philosopher with an acoustic guitar in one hand and a lit marijuana cigarette in the other. The dry delivery of such heavy themes is beautifully on display in the song “Every Time the Feeling”:
Oh I can’t tell what’s worse
Or the negative meaning
I figured out a way to get on with my life
And to keep on dreaming
Every time the feeling comes
You never question why
It comes to you this way
You say you never get an answer that way
But then you wonder anyway
Just you don’t really think about it
And you don’t really try to figure it out, out
Nap Eye’s lilting instrumentation provided by Brad Loughead (lead guitar), Josh Salter (bass), and Seamus Dalton (drums) also provide a deft and wonderfully understated backdrop. Unburdened by the need to flex too hard on their technical chops (even though they’re all fantastic players) they focus more on providing necessarily a sunny sonic color palette. Because of this, even Nap Eyes’ bitterest pills go down nice and easy.
As if they were borrowing from Of Montreal‘s playbook of pairing their darkest, most morose subject matter, Nap Eyes make even the depths of their low key existential dread feel like easy listening. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to get into the lyrics, when I think about it. “Easy” digestion is the name of the game here. I’m not to say that any of this was easy or slapped together, though. Nap Eyes just happen to make it look effortless.