Love is probably both the best and worst thing a person can ever feel in life. Few things, have such an inherent contradictory nature, such a mind-boggling capacity for instilling manic, transcendental joy as well bitter, burning hurt, all at the same time.
A prime example of that idea is Philadelphia-based band Catnaps. Not just because so few bands manage to musically and lyrically evoke the mercurial nature of love as perfectly as Catnaps. Also because Catnaps is a band so talented, so unique, so incredibly goddamn fantastic that it is, in my opinion, impossible not to fall utterly, hopelessly in love with it.
Like all great romances, of course, the love Catnaps inspires is not without an element of tragedy. Why? Because Catnaps has officially broken up. The group played its last show last night. And I never once got to see them live. Life is not fair.
It seems like only yesterday that I discovered this band and, in short order, they rocketed up to a prominent place in the pantheon of music groups I hold near and dear to my cholesterol-clogged li’l heart. It’s like that girl who transferred to my high school halfway through senior year and who I quickly developed a crush on: Around just long enough for me to fall head over heels, only to vanish into the ether all too soon, leaving me lamenting what could’ve been, mourning lost time that I never even had.
Oh well. At least the members of Catnaps is giving me one last parting gift to remember ‘em by, which is more than I can ever say about Danielle Buckwalter.
I guess that brings us to “Forget About Me,” the new and final Catnaps EP. Throughout the album’s five tracks, Catnaps captures the double-edged nature of love not by alternating between sweet and sour, but rather by being both sweet and sour simultaneously.
Since Catnaps’ 2011 debut, “Why Don’t You Whisper,” the band has experimented and evolved with each subsequent release while still maintaining a certain stylistic cohesiveness. Instead of departing from certain signature elements in favor of introducing new ones, what Catnaps has always done is take what already exists and elaborate on those elements, exploring its own trademark sound more deeply.
“Forget About It” sees the group continuing to emphasize the shoegaze-esque wall-of-sound sonic fuzz and ambient atmospherics that shifted to the fore on the band’s previous release, “Shuteye.” “Forget About It” is much closer in style to “Shuteye” than that album was to its predecessor, “Boys Drool,” or that was to “Why Don’t You Whisper.” At the same time, one can see how each development lead to the next and “Forget About It” is the result of constant growth and consistent improvement.
In a way, I guess, maybe it’s fitting that Catnaps has decided to call it quits, as the music on “Forget About It” essentially represents the ultimate crystallization of all the band’s various influences and obsessions into a shining singularity where all the different elements that have long defined the group are at last perfectly balanced with one another. And, just like the material on “Shuteye,” every song here only gets better with each additional listen.
The sound here is spacey, slightly grungy indie twee with angelic pop hooks and lovelorn lyricism that blurs the line between chewing bubblegum and chewing glass. It’s what Catnaps has been working toward since the beginning, and it’s that at its very best. It’s so bright and aching and beautiful, it’s impossible to not smile upon listening to it. It fills the heart to bursting.
I honestly can’t tell whether the pleasurable pain I’m feeling right now is from the music on “Forget About It” or from the thoughts warring for dominance in my head right now, gratitude for all the joy Catnaps has brought me over time versus despair over the knowledge that Catnaps is now no more.
How intoxicatingly, agonizingly apropos.
Choice cuts: “Pictures of You,” “Diner That Night,” and “She Cut Her Bangs”.