This is Not a Bedroom, the debut release from Austin indie-pop outfit Alex Napping, is about the messiness of navigating romance. “I’m filthy as a dog in ways I’ve never been before/ My skin is dry with all the salt that dripped from both our pores,” frontwoman Alex Cohen sings in the frantic “Where Is This Going?,” which sounds like it’s about two people cheating on their significant others. In other songs there are mentions of blemishes that won’t come off with soap, stains left on suitcases, three-week-old body sweat, and a soggy, soaking past.
The album’s title speaks to how the trysts documented here are always unsettled: It’s never as simple as going to sleep in the same bed, together, every night. Opening track “Hallway Eyes” is about a long-distance relationship and how being together never feels like home: “Hallway eyes, elevator rides/ This room is yours and mine/ But only for a little while,” Cohen sings. (She knows it’s doomed and ends the song matter-of-factly with “From here on out/ We’re only heading south.”) In “Catcalls,” in which Cohen perfectly articulates the emotional turmoil of late-night booty calls, there’s a line about sitting in a front yard and “finding sleep so hard.”
It might just be that the songs are so consistently upbeat, but Cohen never sounds stressed about her missteps; instead her vocals are breezy and lyrics self-aware without being mopey or precious. With bright, winding guitars and multi-voiced shouts, Alex Napping are reminiscent of bands like Veronica Falls (minus the fuzziness) or Allo Darlin’ (without the twee wistfulness or pop-culture callouts). “Hallway Eyes” starts with clean guitar pulses, adds synths and then climaxes in a triumphant solo; the backing of “Kill the Lights” is soft and reverbed; “Catcalls” has brisk, glistening waves of layered guitars. Cohen’s sharp wit and relatability make This is Not a Bedroom one of the year’s best indie-pop releases, by a long shot.