Whine of the Mystic
A1. “Dark Creedence” 4.20
A2. “Make Something” 4.57
A3. “Tribal Thoughts” 2.33
A4. “Delirium and Persecution Paranoia” 7.18
B1. “No Man Needs to Care” 3.50
B2. “Dreaming Solo” 4.17
B3. “The Night of the First Show” 2.20
B4. “Oh My Friends” 2.51
B5. “No Fear of Hellfire” 7.33
Drink wine, for it is everlasting day.
It is the very harvest of our youth;
In time of roses, wine and comrades gay,
Be happy, drink, for that is life in sooth.
– Omar Khayyám
Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes is the greatest band you’ve never heard, and Whine of the Mystic is their first full-length album, a brilliant small-batch brew of crooked, literate guitar pop refracted through the gray Halifax rain. Recorded live to tape with no overdubs, it’s equal parts shambling and sophisticated, with one eye on the dirt and one trained on the starry firmament, inhabiting a skewed world where odes to NASA and the Earth’s magnetic field coexist easily with songs about insomnia and drinking too much.
The record’s punning title references (and wryly deflates) the great 11th-century Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyám’s famous propensity for wine-soaked mysticism. Songwriter, singer, and rhythm guitarist Nigel Chapman’s songs share with Khayyám—a rather quaintly old-fashioned inspiration—a certain vinous preoccupation that may well lubricate the similarly conversational tone and philosophical focus. Throughout the record, workaday details punctuate (and puncture) cosmic concerns, as Nigel wrestles with air and angels, struggling (and often failing) to reconcile the Romantic rifts, both real and imagined, that define our lives: between chaos and order (or wilderness and paradise, as in “Tribal Thoughts”); solipsism and fellowship (“Dreaming Solo” vs. “Oh My Friends”); the anxiety of social (dis)orders both big and small (“The Night of the First Show”; “No Man Needs to Care”); and the various intersections and oppositions of religion, art, and science (“Dark Creedence” and “Make Something.”)
The latter three collapsing categories ring particularly relevant for Chapman, a biochemist who spends his weekdays in a research lab, mutating the gene/DNA encoding of a cell-surface receptor protein. As with us all, our diurnal labor and studies inform our creativity, day creeps into night, and so it’s no surprise that sicknesses of “brain protein aggregation” and “up-regulated oncogene” appear in “Make Something,” infecting, by proximity, the more traditionally songwriterly tropes of heart sickness that haunt “Oh My Friends” and “Dreaming Solo.” The two longest and most ambitious songs here, “Delirium and Persecution Paranoia” (which takes place, in part, within the Earth’s core) and “No Fear of Hellfire” (which takes place, appropriately, on a Sunday morning) clatter and buzz along with heedless momentum, tackling, respectively, unstable psychology and geology, and the riddles and contradictions of faith. The songs resonate because they manage to delicately balance the cryptic and the quotidian, rendering a compellingly honest equivocation without evasiveness, a relatable ambivalence without apathy.
Originally released in 2014 by Plastic Factory Records in a highly limited edition of 200 LPs, Whine of the Mystic has gone largely unheard beyond the finely-tuned ears of Montreal and the Maritime Provinces, so Paradise of Bachelors is delighted to introduce it to more Southerly climes. In typically insular Halifax music scene fashion, Nap Eyes shares three of its four members—Josh Salter (bass), Seamus Dalton (drums), and Brad Loughead (lead guitar)—with two other notable local bands, comrades and sometime touring partners Monomyth (Josh and Seamus’s project) and Each Other (which includes Brad as well as Nap Eyes recording engineer Mike Wright.) Though the indelibly wistful vocal melodies are Nigel’s, Josh, Seamus, and Brad are the primary architects of Nap Eyes’ keen sonic signature, which cruises briskly and beautifully along the dog-eared axes of jangle-jaded Oceanic pop music (The Clean, The Verlaines, The Go-Betweens), and through the backpages of Peter Perrett (The Only Ones, England’s Glory) and Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps, Jacobites), via all things Lou Reed and Modern Lovers, without ever sounding very much like anything else happening today.
Part of the secret of Nap Eyes may reside in their avowed recording method, which eschews any overdubs in favor of capturing the immediacy and singularity of full-band live performances. Nigel explains their methodology best: “You get the feeling of the song; everyone’s feeling, all as one take in time, so things fit together naturally, and even mistakes sound natural. This not to discredit any of the incredible recordings made by different principles; it’s just its own kettle of fish.” As a result, both lyrically and musically, Whine of the Mystic articulates the urgency of youthful grace. It’s the sound of being young and alive in the city, a tenuous and impermanent counterpoise of recklessness and anxiety, archness and earnestness. “The very harvest of our youth,” indeed!
Nap Eyes will release a follow-up album of all-new material in early 2016, likewise brought to you by You’ve Changed Records (in Canada) and Paradise of Bachelors (throughout the rest of the world.)
- RIYL The Only Ones/England’s Glory, The Modern Lovers, The Clean, The Verlaines, Nikki Sudden/Jacobites, The Go-Betweens, Bedhead, and all things Lou Reed.
- First widely available edition following an initial extremely limited-edition Canadian release.
- Available from You’ve Changed Records (in Canada) and from Paradise of Bachelors (throughout the rest of the world.)
- Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty chipboard jacket and lyrics insert, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
- Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.
Unkempt rock songs that are steeped in tradition yet impossible to pin down. Nigel Chapman sings with an observational deadpan that echoes back to the likes of Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, and David Berman. This guy spends his days studying the infinite complexity of seemingly simplistic cells, and his songs function the same way. There are worlds inside [these] little three-chord lament[s].
– Chris DeVille, Stereogum
Nap Eyes moves from psych-riffs to astrophysicists; from Rubaiyatic poetry to punctuated bass, in easy fluid motions. Chapman’s calm, steady voice can be as pained as Bob Dylan’s, and his lyrics can be just as profound.
– Adria Young, Noisey
Nap Eyes’ Whine of the Mystic is a ragged splendour, one of the best things in ages. A band from Halifax with a sound like young caterpillar and old silk, like the Velvet Underground and Electrelane and Destroyer and Guided by Voices. Like liking a drink you know isn’t good for you; that’s good for you, that’s good for you, that you know isn’t good for you. They are a rock band just so faintly tripping. They are priests of Shaolin and the Holy See, with electric guitars in their hands, with an un-fancy drum-kit. Nap Eyes’ songs are mazey and riddled, but ambivalent about their mazes, ambivalent about their riddles; in this way they remind me of good smoke, holy incense smoke, always true to its incantation.
– Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone
7.0. Whine of the Mystic is a necessarily dense title for a band like Nap Eyes, its multitudes containing additional multitudes. This is a drinker’s album, for the kind of drinker who does so alone, publicly, poring over popular 11th-century tomes.
– Ian Cohen, Pitchfork
7/10. These spindly, sophisto-naïve songs about friendship, uncertainty, belief, and heavy drinking suggest Lou Reed reared on The Clean and The Verlaines. But rather than a drawl or sneer, there’s vulnerability on Chapman’s lazily charming voice.
– Sharon O’Connell, Uncut
Full of melodic lo-fi guitar-based goodness that tips a hat to Tom Verlaine, The War On Drugs, Swell Maps, The Modern Lovers and a smattering of Lou Reed.
– John Freeman, The Quietus
“Dark Creedence” would be my favorite kind of music if it were a genre. I’m into chooglin’, but mostly in an evil way.
– Steven Hyden, Grantland
The band definitely deserves a wider audience. The strummy, appealingly loose grooves hark back to a variety of top-notch antecedents, including the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers, with a nice dash of the Clean’s shambling energy. Every spin of the album has lodged its contents deeper and deeper into my brain.
– Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
Stunning. Chapman seems to be exploring an emotional complexity that matches the knots in his words. A wiry voice, a cluttered lyric sheet, and subtly nuanced, live-to-tape instrumentals: Whine of the Mystic is a fascinating listen, oscillating perfectly between sourness and brilliance.
A thoughtful, complicated, and knotted debut that manages to feel grounded even as it explores the stars.
– James Rettig, Stereogum
Modern Lovers. The Verlaines. Early Pavement. Parquet Courts. If you know these bands, you know the vibe. If you don’t, think jangling guitars, sub-punk pace, and just enough vocal melody to make a sneer seem sweet. On Whine of the Mystic, the quartet sets singer/songwriter Nigel Chapman’s overcast warble and brainy lyrics (he’s a biochemist by day) against a jumble of rumbling drums and guitars that chug and chime. But where the aforementioned bands were always ready with some standoffish snarl, Nap Eyes tend to follow a path that’s more pastoral, perhaps reflective of their roots in the relatively isolated music scene of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
– Ben Salmon, Portland Mercury
Frontman Nigel Chapman is a Halifax punk rock preacher cast in the mould of those holy ones: Jonathan Richman and Mark E. Smith. The album is full of ragged, glorious guitar tunes, and in all its idiosyncrasies, gushes heart. A ne’er-do-well you can really root for.
– Chart Attack
Recorded at the elusive Drones Club, this saintly record radiates with the light of the community from which it was born. The instrumentation of Halifax veterans Josh Salter, Seamus Dalton, and Brad Loughead mutate Chapman’s empathetic folk into anthemic grooves.
– Weird Canada
8.4/10. It’s a record that captures both the spirit of youth and the wisdom of age. This is my record of choice for coming home from a late night of drinking cheap wine in a friend’s basement. This is going to be my record of choice when I find out my child is putting me in a retirement home.
8/10. Each successive listen yields countless untamed pleasures. However good this album is, nothing will prepare you for the monumental nature of the final cut, “No Fear of Hellfire”, the closest that Canada ever will get to fusing together Krautrock with a kind of Yo La Tengo meets Galaxie 500 shimmer. It is, in a word, awesome. Listen with your eyes closed, and be carried away with bliss.
– Invisible Ink
You really feel like you’re in the room with them. Between the lyrics and constantly shifting sounds and tempos, you’ll never get tired of exploring Whine Of The Mystic. It’s a tremendous listen.
– Hear Ya