Best albums of 2018: #3 Nap Eyes “I’m bad now”

Nap Eyes are a Canadian indie rock quartet led by Nigel Chapman. All four members originally hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but only Chapman remains there. The other three, Brad Loughead, Josh Salter, and Seamus Dalton, have all relocated to Montreal, which one might think would cause problems with recording new material. However, I’m learning that it’s actually not an uncommon situation these days with technology being what it is: bands don’t always have to be in the same room to record a great and cohesive album together.

But I digress.

I came across Nap Eyes a couple of years ago with their sophomore album, “Thought rock fish scale”, and happily, got to see them perform live for free at the Ottawa Dragonboat festival the same year. Their sound appealed to me right away. It’s lazy-sounding slacker rock but nowhere near the same vibe as Kurt Vile or fellow Canadian, Mac DeMarco, neither of which particularly appeal to me in the same sense. No. These guys remind me of an underrated 90s dream pop band called Luna but also very much of The Velvet Underground, particularly if “Sunday morning” had been the template from which all their catalogue was cut. It’s mellow but it rocks, and absolutely, Nigel Chapman’s conversational singing tone evokes those of Lou Reed and Dean Wareham. His lyrics are weird, seemingly stream of consciousness monologues, rife with both the mystical and the mundane, the loose frays and discomfiture not at all hinting at the career of his other life as biochemist. Yeah, they’re an interesting group.

“I’m bad now” is the group’s third long player and is seen in some circles as the final part in an unofficial trilogy. On this outing, they pick things up a bit. At moments, it’s quite upbeat in pace but I still wouldn’t call these songs rockers in the traditional sense. Sometimes they plod along and sometimes they burn slowly, hinting at a build that never quite explodes, and sometimes they just hum and tear, thrilling in the journey rather than the destination.

Like its two predecessors, “I’m bad now” works as a complete album, bucking the current trend towards singles. All eleven songs work just as well as standalone pieces as they do as part of the whole. So though it was a tough task, I have separated out three picks for you to sample. Enjoy.


“Follow me down”: This here’s a song about going for a walk and it carries on with a cheerful gait, the tap-tap on the drum rim, the bopping bass line, and the gentle strum on the guitar. It has the feel of old style folk music but with a wash of reverb underpinning it all. And Chapman is inviting us to join him on his early morning stroll, early to try to beat noise, physical and otherwise, that comes with all the people. But no matter, he’s got his earphones in: “Classical Indian ragga twenty minutes long. Then I listened to old American folk song. A little bit shorter, still a lot going on.” Keep up with him, please, he’s a got a good pace this morning.

“Dull me line”: “Dull me line, running abandoned race tracks in my mind. Dull me heart, heavy with bored and lazy disappointment art.” The chorus line, which in a bigger, stadium friendly band might incite a raucous sing-along, was Chapman both being frustrated with writer’s block and being easily distracted. The guitars are jangling and shimmering and often give way to messy, Velvet Underground-like mini-jams throughout the song. It’s a great tune to bop along to. Yeah, just close your eyes and ride the waves. Yeah, man.

“Roses”: Here’s an example of Nap Eyes in an upbeat, uptempo moment. It’s got a driving beat and roaring guitars and feels like it’s going to be much longer than its three plus minutes. It just has that feel, like you’re in for the long haul and you don’t mind at all, the rhythm is nice but Chapman doesn’t give it to you. Instead, he gives you more of his honest and insecure and curious thoughts in the form of lyrics. “Somebody sent you roses. Now what do you do with them? You’ve got no reason to trim them. No nice place to throw them. Because it doesn’t seem right to throw them away. Yet you can’t very well send them back the other way.” Hilarious and poignant and so much why I love this band.


Check back next Friday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”
4. Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 2018: #4 Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”

I’ve been following Spiritualized for well over two decades. I became aware of Jason Pierce’s work in the early 1990s but really dug into it with 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, which some of you may remember hit the number one spot in my best albums list for that year back in May. That album is still considered the group’s high water mark by many (including myself), though they have since put out five more albums, each pretty consistently great.

Spiritualized was formed by Jason Pierce in Rugby, England in 1990 when his band with Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, Spaceman 3, split up. Their early output sounded like a continuation from the earlier band but very quickly Jason Pierce established his own style and sound that mixed elements of psychedelic rock, noise rock, free jazz, and gospel into something he has called “space rock”. In the twenty eight years since their formation, Spiritualized has only put out eight albums and each with a different set of backing musicians. And though Pierce is the creative force and only constant, he has never sought all the attention, as evidenced by his placement at the side of the stage, just one of the players, when the group performs live. It appears, though, that his new album was completed solo, just him, a laptop, and a handful of hired guns.

“And nothing hurt” was a rumoured release for a number of years, word being that it would be the final Spiritualized album. I was beginning to think it would never come when Pierce finally broke the continued silence by posting on several social media outlets in the spring, teasing images, sounds, and Morse code messages. I pre-ordered the standard edition on Amazon immediately but am now wishing that I busted out a few extra dollars for the deluxe edition. As an album, it’s my favourite by the group in quite some time. It’s the closest Pierce has come to replicating the magic of “Ladies and gentleman” and at the same time, it’s more mature and controlled. It riffs on his usual themes of love, drugs, and religion but there seems to be an added sense here of his own mortality.

“And nothing hurt” is as sad and uplifting and beautiful as you could hope for from a Spiritualized album and you get the sense that this could be the end. But you hope it’s not. Have a listen to my three picks below and let me know what you think.


”A perfect miracle”: “I’d like to sit around and dream you up a perfect miracle”, Pierce sings at the beginning of the album opener. This, over top of the gentle strum of a ukulele and with synths and sampled strings, the hint of happiness. He starts each verse with this very line and goes on to suggest he’d do anything for the object of his affection but then, at the chorus, it is all upended with excuses as to why he can’t (or won’t) see her. It goes without saying that it is all lushly arranged, reverting from quiet to loud, though it never really gets super loud, and Pierce just singing the words sadly and almost grudgingly.

”Let’s dance”: This one also starts slowly and quietly but it definitely feels like a builder, right from the first note. The title suggests a nod to David Bowie but this is Pierce, it’s not a proper dance in a dancehall. Sure, it’s the end of the night and he’s a tired and “lonely rock ‘n’ roller” so he seems to be implying a slow, swaying dance that’s more tight embrace for safety than true movement to song. However, the twinkling keys and light tap on the cymbal do eventually give way to a trademark Spiritualized cacophony, albeit one that feels more controlled. Pierce is tired, right?

”I’m your man”: Along with “A perfect miracle”, “I’m your man” was our first glimpse into this new album and the video released for it showed Pierce wearing a spacesuit, which inferred to me a return to the themes of “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”. The song title, much like “Let’s dance”, feels like a reference to another classic song. Indeed, Spiritualized’s “I’m your man” is like a response or repudiation to the one by Leonard Cohen. Where Mr. Cohen suggests he will be anything that his lover wants him to be, Pierce says he could do all that but if she wants someone “wasted, loaded, permanently folded”, then, and only then, he’s her man. The music is a bluesy, slow dance number performed by a big band, complete with horns and wistful guitar solos, and Pierce is singing at the side of the stage, tie loosened and top button undone, ready to pack it in for the night. Just awesome.


Check back next Friday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 2018: #5 Middle Kids “Lost friends”

June 2, 2018. My good friends and concert buddies, Tim and Mark, and I were at the first day of Field Trip, a two-day festival put on by Arts & Crafts Records at Fort York Commons every year in Toronto. We had met at Tim’s Place first for a couple of lunch time drinks that turned into more than expected. We missed the first few bands and when we got there, we were more interested in getting food and hitting the beer and bourbon sampling tents than the performers on stage so I feel that Middle Kids might have been one of the first bands we actually sat down to watch.

As I recall, my friend Jean-Pierre was a bit jealous that I was going to get a chance to see them when we were talking about the festival a few days beforehand. But at the time and even when I sat down on the drying grass, I didn’t really connect the band with “Lost friends”, the album I had happened upon a month earlier and really played the hell out of. Thus, I was quite surprised (and possibly my friends were too) when I recognized pretty much all of their songs. And well, to sum up a long story, Middle Kids really blew me away.

They are trio out of Sydney, Australia, two thirds of which are married couple Hannah Joy and Tim Fitz, both of whom were incidentally middle children. Joy, a classically trained pianist, originally met multi-instrumentalist Fitz in 2014 and he started producing her solo work for her, as well as helping her out when performing live. Not long after, they recruited Harry Day, a recent graduate in jazz studies, to play drums and they became a band. “Lost friends” is the band’s debut album, spearheaded by a single called “Edge of town” that had previously been released on their self-titled EP and famously found a fan in Sir Elton John.

“Lost friends” doesn’t sound like a debut album to me. Indeed, I’ve been struggling while writing these words with trying to decide exactly what this album does sound like to me. It feels a bit derivative but not as much as Pitchfork might have you believe. And though I don’t like the term “indie rock” as a descriptor (because it doesn’t really describe anything), it might actually work here. They blend a lot of stuff together, recalling the best of the 2000s and the 1990s. They layer a lot of instrumentation on top of their trio of instruments and yet they still manage to keep focus on the compelling vocals of their frontwoman. And again, it doesn’t sound freshman at all, no, it’s got all the hooks of a best of compilation, everything sounding like a hit single.

Really, I could’ve chosen any of its twelve songs to focus on so I rolled the dice and picked these three for you. What do you all think?


“On my knees”: This is a song that winds itself up with its intro, setting the drummer Harry Day off to go wild on his kit, somewhat restrained during the verses and off his rocker on the choruses. The guitars are 90s crunchy and there’s plenty of noise to muddy the mix and Hannah Joy feels a little Alanis Morisette here, circa Jagged Little Pill. No, I’m not trying to add insult here, just to situate things. It’s a rocker that flails against the wall for its duration, only to dial it right down at the end to deliver that final: “Yeah, there’s something there that I have never seen.”

“Don’t be hiding”: The guitar strum is fine and the beat is jaunty. But it’s the singing I enjoy here, by times bold and others vulnerable, reflecting the ideas espoused in the lyrics. “If you showed me your body, do you think that I’d like it? Would you stand up there proudly? Would you feel like you’re dying? I don’t care if your jeans don’t fit that well.” The comfort or lack thereof with body image and appearances is not something I concern myself with too much at my age but I remember it. I also realize things my even be more heightened these days with our friend the internet. I can totally see this being a stadium singalong in the near future.

“Mistake”: This last pick feels a bit more retro even, like something from the 80s, perhaps a John Hughes soundtrack. There’s definitely melodrama in the lively drum beat and the way Hannah Joy sings “Oh darling”. There’s also heartbreak and wrongdoing and sorrow and regret. Someone’s standing out in the rain, evoking a multitude of soul-searching scenes in cinematic history, and though it’s not a Hughes flick, for some reason, a certain moment in “Say anything” comes to mind. But it’s not just the themes of the lyrics that feel 80s. That bass line kind of feels Hook-esque and Joy sounds a bit like Margo Timmins and someone else that I just can’t put my finger on. Needless to say, like most of their tunes, “Mistake” feels instantly familiar and new at the same time and dammit if I don’t feel like getting up to dance like Molly Ringwald in “The breakfast club”.


Check back next Friday for album #4. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.