Naps takes on new territory with The Most Beautiful Place on Earth.
On the opening track of Naps' latest release, vocalist Ryan Stanley repeats the defiant statement, "The world's too slow and I'm too fast." This bold proclamation can come as unexpected from the Florida foursome – on their very first single, "Jean Skirt Mystique", you can almost hear Stanley shrug through the line "I just want something easy / I wanna make out with my friends." This attitude doesn't mean that Naps, which is made up of members Stanley, Katryn Macko, Jeremy Probst, and Laura Hicks, had a slacker outlook on life – the group just approached their songwriting in a more homegrown fashion. You could visualize the couple Macko spies on the loveseat in the heartbreakingly melancholic "Sandspurs" and the drive past a townhouse she describes in the lo-fi gem "Floral Mattress." But this isn't the Naps from two years ago. Since their last tape, You Will Live in a Cool Box, Naps has begun experimenting with unnatural sounds and samples that are a major leap from their past fuzzy indie pop-influenced jams. It's rare that a band can make a sonic flip without it falling flat or feeling out of place. The Most Beautiful Place On Earth, which is one half of a cassette split with fellow Floridians' Yikes' Commercial Music, proves that Naps can spin anything into DIY pop gold.
Listening to The Most Beautiful Place on Earth feels like being hypnotized. On the aforementioned opener, "Bad Vibrations", Stanley sets the scene by bluntly asking, "Is it best to see it all or to see nothing?" Naps relies on the looping and layering of drum machines and samples to build the foundation of "Bad Vibrations". But just when you find yourself sucked in, Naps wakes you up with an innovative bolt of guitar as the vocals blend and whirl together. The introduction of the new Naps sound also comes with a more philosophical rumination on society. On "Social Skills", which has been out since earlier this year, the band comments on our generations' dependence on pills and lack of social skills before repeating "34 days without speaking" over and over. The line might be an exaggeration, but it's a frighteningly accurate fact that most of our time is spent sucked into screens sans human interaction. The band isn't here to push an agenda though – they're simply just exploring a world beyond the box that they started in. The closest Naps gets to something that would have fit on Cool Box is middle track, "The Most Beautiful Place on Earth is the Moon", when Macko takes the vocal lead. This time the production is crisper, the guitars are louder, and Macko is clearer and more aggressive than ever when she sings, "Destroy what you create / and you created me" before tearing the subject down. If you need a more obvious example of their change of pace, Naps has a tradition of finishing their releases with a cover, which in the past included versions of Tiger Trap and R.L. Kelly songs. The Most Beautiful Place on Earth ends with Naps' incredibly catchy toy keyboard take on PC Music's Danny L Harle's "Aquarius". The band might be moving too fast for the Earth, but you'd be happy to join the ride.
Listen to Naps on bandcamp.
Written by Emily Thompson