May 10, 2017

LP: Alex Napping - Mise En Place

Alex Napping's transcendent songwriting shines through on their new album.

To the modern indie pop know-it-all (of which there are many), there’s a lot happening on the surface of a record like Alex Napping's Mise en Place that shouldn’t be unexpected. In terms of instrumentation, the sounds themselves wouldn't be out of place coming from similar pop groups: Frankie Cosmos, Half Waif, you name it. So what’s left to carry the latest record from Alex Napping is purely songwriting, and on Mise en Place, that turns out to be an amazing thing. 

Mise en Place is an album from many places. The solemn streets of Brooklyn cross-sect Austin, Texas and road trips all over the country throughout its nine tracks. Father/Daughter Records, a San Francisco staple that churns out “misfit pop” bands, has seemingly found their perfect poster child in Alex Cohen, whose character and voice steer at the wheel of the album’s emotional ship. Matching choruses of total splendor with soaking patterns of reverberating drums and guitar, Cohen constructs pop songs more like Joni Mitchell than Grimes. The grand and catchy refrain on “Fault” emerges from a place of pure glory. Catching smart, sultry melody structures on the tips of refined, slow-burning guitar work, it’s easily one of the band’s best tracks. Here, and on over-the-top moments such as the gleaming bobble-headed patterns on “Pilot Episode,” Cohen plays an intriguing game that pulls styles from prominent '80s pop trends and molds them in with modern indie rock, similar to the handiwork of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner or Alvvays’ Molly Rankin. 

Alex Napping finds success in playing with relatively nostalgic sounds without coming off as washed-up or unoriginal imitators. Most of this comes down, again, to Cohen’s songwriting. Many songs, especially the high-energy “Temperamental Bed,” find a perfect range for the vocals to thrive alongside emotional-yet-exciting guitars that rise and fall in wonderful unison. For those more prone to the early aughts emo scene that birthed bands like Pity Sex, some songs may remind listeners of Adventures, the eternally-underwritten indie spin-off from members of Code Orange. The most brilliant stretches of emotion on Mise en Place might stir to memories spent alone in a dorm room, wristband distribution outside a bar on a Thursday night, or even a strange and budding post-high school relationship. For a record with a nominal attachment to having everything in a perfect place, Mise en Place feels blissfully unaware with its surroundings. Much more content on musing towards finding a unique voice, the album allows a pleasant respite from anything bordering “trendy.” Even if each song were recorded on an iPhone in a bathroom, the pure songwriting skills still would shine through. These rockers make art of matching melodies and stringing along listeners with perfect polka dots of emotional glare in nearly every song. Alex Napping is so truly a band with its finger on its own pulse, it’s able to take almost any time, space, or feeling and find a path to follow towards pure majesty.

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Listen to Alex Napping on bandcamp.


THIS STAFF POST WAS CONTRIBUTED BY: 
Elijah Fosl is a freelance music and culture writer who's really bad at describing themselves. They hail from Louisville but live in Chicago where they work, ferociously devouring cassette tapes and local produce. Find them on Twitter at @elifosl or online at elifosl.com.