Alex Napping’s Mise En Place is Full of Emotional Resonance

by Brian J. Audette

Alex Napping Mise En Place

Rush hour traffic probably isn’t the best time to listen to Alex Napping’s debut LP Mise en Place. As an unapologetic New England road warrior, this is what I did and the album’s subtle, bitter sweetness (that I came to appreciate later on in a more relaxed setting) was lost on me in the moment. While not a far cry from the jangle pop of their three-year-old This is Not a Bedroom EP, Alex Napping’s sound as evidenced by Mise en Place has quite obviously matured. However, the album still bears the hallmarks of a young band finding their voice.

At its heart, Mise en Place is a collection of melancholy dream pop, interspersed with artsy indie rock jangle. The moody honesty of the album’s evocative lyrics illustrate the growth this band has gone through since their last release. “I can dream all day/‘Bout what it’d be like/For our pictures to share walls/And the neighbors be nice” sings front woman Alex Cohen in “Living Room,” just one of many personal moments on the album. In addition to the lyrical maturity, the rest of the band has expanded their sound beyond the signature rock jangle of their earlier releases. Crisp, baroque guitar work laced with angular riffs winds its way through each track, accompanied by dreamy rhythms and the soft slap of muffled drums. Cohen’s breathy vocals at times evoke Bjork-like quirkiness, while at others appear to be channeling the otherworldly, pixie charm of Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino.

Where Mise en Place shines brightest is when it makes use of the whole band as a unit and (perhaps most importantly) treats the vocals as part of that ensemble. Songs like “Fault,” “Living Room,” and “Temperamental Bed” utilize Alex Cohen’s voice in a way that complements it, rather than leaving it to fend for itself. The places where Mise en Place tries to treat her voice more like one might a soloist end up feeling like missteps either in production or simply due to the growing pains of a young band. While certainly not egregious, those moments were noticeable and stood out in contrast to what I felt were better executions elsewhere on the album.

As a full length debut, Mise en Place delivers on the promise of Alex Napping’s previous releases, while taking the band in new directions. There’s a sad beauty in these compositions and lyrics that paints a familiar world of loves lost and tough decisions made. That Alex Napping are able to so subtly, yet fully capture this emotional resonance despite some missteps, speaks to the potential still ahead for them and greater things to come.

You can read Joel Greatbatch’s interview with Alex Cohen here, and you can catch Alex Napping this Friday, May 5th at Cheer Up Charlie’s for their album release party.

Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at or on Twitter at @bjaudette.