Nap Eyes are a remarkably consistent band. Their 2015 debut, Whine of the Mystic, contains nine tracks of breezy, itinerant indie rock that only occasionally rambles on too long. The follow-up, 2016’s Thought Rock Fish Scale, does more or less the same thing. So the question for these Canadian crypto-jammers is: mix it up on LP3 or nah? I’m Bad Now is another reliable slab from Nap Eyes, with stronger melodies and more consistency across the board.
The melodic improvement is evident right from the start. Frontman Nigel Chapman’s singing style is decidedly flat and deadpan, as if he descended directly from Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman. It’s a style that can easily devolve into tuneless (and aimless) mumbling. But on album opener “Every Time the Feeling,” Chapman makes the most of his limited range, slithering from note to note in what might be Nap Eyes’ catchiest song yet.
“Judgement” has a similar vibe, and it gives bassist Josh Salter space to burble and glide. “Follow Me Down” is a lullaby to simple existence with a deeply hypnotic quality. “Roses” juxtaposes post-punk’s pace with gentle swoops of slide guitar. Indeed, Brad Loughead’s lead guitar work is key to Nap Eyes’ success, whether he’s working subtly in the margins (“Sage”) or unspooling some sharp, Television-style textures (“You Like to Joke Around With Me”).
Thematically, Chapman spends much of I’m Bad Now pushing and pulling on the unease and uncertainty of day-to-day life. Sometimes it manifests as ennui—“wandering restlessly without a goal,” he sings in “Dull Me Line”—and other times it feels more pointed and critical. Take, for example, this verse from the sorta-title track “I’m Bad,” in which Chapman seems to be singing to himself:
It doesn’t take much to topple your equilibrium
You say you’re a hated son
And disappointment haunts everyone
But if it’s you worst of all
I’m Bad Now ends on a quietly high note, first with “White Disciple,” an oscillating epic that sports a convivial chorus and a soulful foundation. “Your life is pointless,” Chapman sings as the bass bounces around, “unless it sets you free.” Following “White Disciple” is the closer, “Boats Appear,” an uncomplicated dreamsong befitting Chapman’s seaside home base of Nova Scotia. It finds him watching the water and ruminating on the mysteries of life: “It takes time to understand things,” he sings. “And even then, man, things go so slow.”
It’s that kind of anti-wisdom that really makes I’m Bad Now resonate. But it wouldn’t have its opportunity to surface if Nap Eyes didn’t create space for it to do so. They’re a remarkably consistent band, yes, but a remarkably skilled band as well.