27 May 2014 (Topshelf Records)
By Joe DeBonis
Sometimes music can just hit you in the perfect spot, just above the belt but right, square in the gut. There is no need to replay it, no need to think about it; the music just directly pulverizes your senses and takes over your emotions to the point of not even being able to think about anything else. Punk music and specifically any kind of music that associates with the emo scene usually is the best kind of music to take over the senses with the passionate, yet angry vocals and driving percussion that embody the genre so well. The instant angst that seems to be injected into the veins of the listener when the first scream blasts through the speakers and when the first power chord reverberates around the room or through a pair of head phones creates an instantaneous rush that is really unlike any other kind of music.
Nai Harvest is an emo-punk band with all the ingredients on the surface to make music that fits into this equation. They are signed to Topshelf Records, the same label The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am Not Longer Afraid To Die is signed to and have simple yet necessary tags on bandcamp to lead any mild fan of the genre straight to them. But it wasn’t until I heard the first line on “Whatever,” “A hit to the back of the neck with coffee breath makes me feel something other than whatever” smashing through my apartment that I knew I had struck gold with this band.
Ben Thompson screams his lyrics so perfectly, the hairs on the back of necks raise and blood starts to boil as he lets go and allows his anguish and pain engulf his music. A vocalist and his ability to scream really make or break a band in this vein of music and reserving judgment until hearing what the singer has to offer is always a good idea when approaching a new emo band.
This band is not all vocals and singing though, and no good emo band ever is. Thompson also does some efficient and melodic guitar work that keeps the songs going when there is nothing left to sing, and fellow band mate Lew Currie shows off an impressive drum work ethic that keeps time, smashes out the hits to each song and lays the ground work for Thompson to do his thing both on guitar and with his voice. It’s an uncomplicated setup with only two people and having the bare essentials instrumentation wise sets the band up for success in the emo realm.
Lyrically is where the band really shines. The songs don’t really have much winding poetry or amazing metaphors, but what they do have is the blunt truth. On “Twin Teaks,” Thompson moans, “Am I just fucking boring,” which encompasses one of the most common themes of any breakup in five harsh words. Everyone at least once in their life has thought this exact thing; terrified of losing someone they love because they are not worthy. It is easy to sing about sad subjects and even easier to say the words, but making sure there is emotion backing it all is where the challenge comes in and Thompson does and excellent job welding his scream and groan together into a voice that is both haunting and formidable.
Every time I stop listening to Whatever, the echoes of “Distance, etc.” bounce around in the back of my head for the rest of the day. “Why do I always try so hard,” is what Thompson is singing, but it is more like a cry for help, a lament to a scorned lover, than actual singing and it just hits the nail on the head, opening a well of feeling that remains for the rest of the day. It’s a combination of simple yet severe lyrics and Thompson’s scream that make the band so easy to connect with and its hard not to find something in the lyrics that hasn’t happened to everyone at least once in their lives.
People want to feel emotion, whether its ecstatic joy or extreme fear, or even pure teenage angst. The idea of having these emotions created sonically is such a unique idea that is monopolized by musicians and the power to create different emotions is what makes music prevailing and so meaningful to people. There is a time in everybody’s life where they just want to scream or cry or just slam shit around and bands like Nai Harvest produce the perfect anthem to do just that. Its ok to want to be a little mad or sad sometimes in life, and having emo music as an outlet to feel those feels is nothing to be ashamed of. Having the music as something to connect with and get one through trying times makes perfect sense when the music is about the same exact situations and heartbreak they are feeling too.
Emo music gets this bad rap that its for weirdos with no friends who like to listen to screaming maniacs, but as I have grown and changed as a person, only one kind of music has stayed constant and stayed an important part of my life and that is emo music. The need to unleash pent up rage is in everybody and getting to sing along to songs about young heart break, feelings of insecurity and the idea that life is pointless makes one’s own life seem a little less bleak. Hearing songs that make life appear at its darkest make real life come across a little less terrible sometimes and in the end, its ok to just need to scream.
Emo music hasn’t really changed too much since Cap’n Jazz and American Football Heroes, but does it really have to? If a singer can make someone feel a need to scream their brains out and that’s what people want, why should anything really have to change? Musically and melodically, bands have grown and altered their sound, but there will never be an emo band that does not have a singer who can give someone goose bumps with their voice. The simple connection emo bands can make with their fans by touching on such a volatile subject as heart ache is pure and unlike anything else in music.
I say all this and bring these thoughts to the table because Nai Harvest is able to carry on the torch of emo bands that have succeeded in creating a feeling in me greater than myself. As sappy and pretentious as that sounds, it is not every band that has loud guitar and hoarse screaming that can well up emotion in someone. It really takes a certain amount of skill and the ability to call upon people’s waiting emotions to make an emo record worth returning to and Nai Harvest did that. Topshelf Records made the right move in signing them and putting this record out, even if it was officially released almost a year and a half ago with Dog Knights Productions & Pinky Swear Records. Before long I would not be surprised if Pitchfork finds them and turns them into the next big thing in emo music.
Rating: Gotta Have It