The release of wear your heart out, the newest album by alt-pop band Nightly, puts their last few years into perspective. Their dense and intricate debut album, night, love you, was released just two weeks prior to the 2020 Presidential election. A record of that nature in a time of such duress would surely satisfy the bands core audience, but, at that point, bringing new fans into their world was not in the cards.
The pandemic forced Nightly to turn to what many artists did during that time: virtual shows. Unfortunately, songs like “not like you,” “so sly,” and “time online” did not benefit from that environment. Those songs needed to breathe in front of a crowd. The band wouldn’t get to play tunes from that record live, in a headline show setting, for another two years.
By the time they went on tour late last year, newer singles like “hate my favorite band,” “dirty white chucks,” and “on your sleeve” were high priority, and the response to them was deafening. Songs like “the car,” “summer,” and “time online” off the debut album didn’t even make it onto the setlist.
This time around, wear your heart out is going to have its moment. The songs are going to be fleshed out in front of crowds while they’re new. In less than two months, Nightly is heading out on the road. For this record, that will be everything.
Start With What You Know
They kick this record off with the singles, excluding “dry eyes,” which gets its moment in the sun later on. In its place is “the feeling” which SHOULD have been a single. Lumping most of the well-known tracks together right at the start was a fair choice, as it allows the listener to revisit familiar tracks in the context of an album but keeps the larger source material at bay. Breaking up the high-octane disco pop with “radiohead” was also a successful strategic move, as allowing Capeci’s clear, lingering falsetto notes to hang out in space after three consecutive bangers is a highlight of the record.
The breadth of the record takes shape after “radiohead.” “it’s not your body,” a lyrical and melodic standout, tells a tale of two people admiring the other from across the room, nervous to make a move but already feeling some kind of attachment. The male and female perspective of the “She’s/I’m not the jealous type, but…,” lyric in the verses is a clever spin.
Following suit, songs like “shirt” and “naked” are what one Twitter user described as part of Nightly’s “slutty boi summer.” The premise of “shirt” is that she spilled her drink on him and proceeded to turn him on with talks of tattoos before turning away, so the full implications of “You left more than just a stain on my shirt” are up for interpretation. “naked” is much more direct, with Capeci’s reverb-drenched vocals not even attempting to keep lines like, “Go ahead and get under my skin / Been touching myself till we do it again / I don’t wanna fake it / I wish we were naked,” under the radar. You almost expect them to pull an Ariana Grande during the Positions era and go around saying, “Haha c’mon guys, don’t take it so seriously we were just being funny.”
Fun and games aside, both “shirt” and “naked,” the former arguably a career instrumental highlight with an incredibly dynamic drum section, borrow from their own fan favorite “This Time Last Year” in different sections of their respective choruses. While most may not pick up on the similarities, or even care, that does slightly affect the perception of these songs from a critical lens.
“My boys, my boys…”
One factor of this record that should not be lost in the shuffle amongst the summer bops and “slutty boi” anthems is the overall sincerity. “my boys,” for instance, is ridiculously endearing. The one-two punch of this track and “whiskey pt. 2” is a kind of, “if you know, you know” wink to longtime fans, but the song is an essential part of the album: “Got a girl that treats me nice but no one’s ever gonna love me like my boys, my boys / Lemme tell you bout my boys, my boys.”
Funnily enough, “my boys” is an indicative part of the record when it comes to Capeci’s vocal ability as well. His expansive, expressive range and newer, more adult flavors of tone are heard throughout “wear your heart out,” “the feeling,” “like I do,” and “navy blue,” but “my boys” is all about the effortless cool he has shown throughout their discography. Even the first verse, in which he sings about how misguided his life was pre-Nightly, sounds like he’s popping his collar in the studio.
What this project really comes down to are the final tracks. “pink starburst” is playful yet coy, but almost feels like an attempt to delay the inevitable look inward that is to come. And then there is “love somebody.” It is not the grand musical escapade it could have been, but is rather a contained message-in-a-bottle type omission. Capeci tries to be petty on “the feeling” and “dry eyes,” but only to try and mask his fears of past trauma, despite his progress. This song is his step into the sun moment. He can feel again. “I kept my heart under lock and key / Out on an island out of arms reach / Cause if nobody’s close, nobody can hurt me / I never knew that I could love somebody until I loved somebody.”
wear your heart out is the record Nightly needed to make. It is the kind of record to accompany the listener on their own journey of new love… whether that journey is just starting or already over. The sound is vibrant, loose, and, while not substantially progressive, conservatively palatable. It is clear just how intentional their choices are, and how clearly their vision is at this moment.