I’m Bad Now, the most transparent and personal Nap Eyes album to date, constitutes the third chapter of an implicit, informal trilogy that includes Whine of the Mystic (2015) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016). The brilliantly reductive title is something I’ve heard my four-year-old son and his friends announce verbatim when roleplaying the perennial game of heroes and villains, “good guys” and “bad guys.” “I’m bad now,” he declares, but an equivocal binary is implied: it’s only a matter of time or trading places before he (or anyone) has the capacity for good again. Perhaps goodness will manifest in the multiverse, on a different circuit than this faulty, frayed one. Is that faith or fantasy? And what is the difference? The title is also, of course, a sly Michael Jackson appropriation that can also be more simply read. “When you can own your capacity for badness, you can also grow up in some way,” enigmatic songwriter Nigel Chapman said when discussing the album and its themes. “Children can’t be ‘bad,’ because they are children. As an adult, you can — or should — only be bad as little as possible.”
While Chapman composes Nap Eyes songs in their inchoate form at home in Halifax, Brad Loughead (lead guitar), Josh Salter (bass), and Seamus Dalton (drums), who live a twelve-hour drive away in Montreal, augment and arrange them, transubstantiating his skeletal, ruminative wafers into discourses that aim to transcend what Nigel, in the song “Dull Me Line,” self-laceratingly deems “bored and lazy disappointment art.” The band provides ballast and bowsprit to Nigel’s cosmical mind. The nautical metaphor is not just whimsy: Nap Eyes are all Nova Scotians by raising and temperament, acclimated to life on an Atlantic peninsula linked narrowly to the rest of North America. “Follow Me Down,” with its “broad cove” and bay, and “Boats Appear,” with its “steam trails rising from the sea,” both offer an evocative sense of place for these otherwise mental mysteries. We are very many creatures, with innumerable possible courses to explore. So let fly the cosmical mind into the gray night, dear listener.