There’s a risk you take as a songwriter when you go hyper-literate with your lyrics. It’s easy to lose an audience that way, easy to get bogged down in your own thoughts and not have them translate outside of the written word. Nap Eyes sidestep that pitfall gracefully on their debut album, Whine Of The Mystic, turning their wordy musings into something that you can either pore over or just let wash over you, picking up lines piecemeal as it goes.
Nigel Chapman is the lyrical center of the Nova Scotia band, and you can tell he’s the kind of person that stares out into space a lot, getting lost in his own world. He’s a biochemist by day, and that meticulous and near obsessive attention to detail comes across in his music. He likes to have big moments stand in for smaller things; he wants to look at the big picture before zooming in on the particles. Science is motivated by a large-scale idea that is then progressed on in tiny, experimental increments. It’s much the same way as life: you have a goal, and then you go about trying to figure out how to get there.
On “Delirium And Persecution Paranoia,” he wants forgiveness, but he goes about asking for it in a roundabout way — first, he starts inside the Earth’s core, looking at how the rocks heat and cool in cycles. Then he tells an observational story of an insomniac that never sleeps, “but feels 20 minutes of blinding pain and blurring vision.” After he jumps around a bit, he gets to the point: “Where can I get away, when all I’ve ever tried and tried is not to have to listen?” He wants the rewards without putting in the work; he wants to have his fantasy world and interact with the real one at the same time. Later, on “Dreaming Solo,” Chapman asks himself: “But Nige, are you dreaming solo?”
None of Chapman’s spacey, meta-textual lyrics would work without a firm backbone, which the rest of the band provides with ramshackle glee. The entire album was recorded without overdubs so the band could play together at the same time, and the immediacy of the recording process allows Chapman to feel distinctly part of a collective, instead of a solitary songwriter. Together, they craft Whine Of The Mystic into a thoughtful, complicated, and knotted debut that manages to feel grounded even as it explores the stars.
Whine Of The Mystic is out 7/10 via Paradise Of Bachelors.