Nai Harvest’s Hold Open My Head EP saw the Sheffield, England, duo move away from the fuzzy Cap’n Jazz-isms of their debut, Whatever, toward a more extroverted, streamlined rock informed by all the right alt touchstones. In the British rock sort-of-tradition of switching things up with each release (see Blur, Ride, etc.), their new album, Hairball, finds singer/guitarist Ben Thompson and drummer Lew Currie already moving on. Recorded with Manchester-based producer Bob Cooper, Hairball holds on to the band’s less-is-more math while reaching for more instant hooks. Japandroids may be a too-obvious comparison, but searing rousers like Hairball singles “Buttercups” and “Sick on My Heart” can’t help but evoke those two Vancouver flamethrowers.
It feels like Thompson and Currie have started putting a lot more sugar in their coffee (or tea, pick your poison) in the year since Hold Open My Head. The sweet stuff even gets name-checked in “Spin” and “Gimme Gimme”, framing the album as it were. Where once he stretched “Everything I do is so rushed” with a wink over four entire lines (of the glorious “Rush”, from Hold Open My Head), here Thompson is inclined to say a bit more, or at least say it faster. At times his vocals even seem to have inhaled half a drag of helium when compared to the EP; almost imperceptibly higher, a touch more nasally. The demand that this acceleration naturally puts on Currie doesn’t limit him, as he finds new fills and nuances in throttling his drum kit with each song. Hairball is a confident, exuberant semi-reset from self-professed “pop scum” rising.