Review Summary: Completely worthy of the illustrious name, Harvard's The Inevitable and I rewards from beginning until commencement.
Jesse Clasen may be one of the most talented young singers on the scene today. His youthful and occasionally feminine-like vocal characteristics can be most apparently seen in his solo project The Bear Romantic. A mostly acoustic venture, his solo work displays a satisfying degree of maturity, musicianship, and accessibility. It is this ability to take intelligent pieces of music and insert memorable hooks which makes him the perfect choice as frontman for Harvard.
Harvard is by no stretch of the imagination a trendsetting band. It works out that some are leaders and other followers in music. Although Harvard fits into the latter category, it is their ability to draw upon influences, repackage those elements and cater them directly to the audience that sets them apart. Their music borrows the foundations from genres such as indie, post-hardcore, and even shoegaze, channeling and condensing them into a consistent sound throughout the whole of The Inevitable and I
. Sure, the similarities to Circa Survive are obvious, between dueling guitars bathed in screaming effects and a high-pitched vocalist carrying the band on his shoulders. Still, Harvard is not a carbon-copy of the contemporaries which influence them. What truly drives Harvard’s music is the direction. Though their songs may draw on shoegaze and progressive elements, forerunning the affair is a pop-sensibility which gives the music a personality and reason to be heard. In all respects, Harvard is an interactive band that cares about their audience. It is easy to tell during their live shows that the band is very passionate about what they do.
If there is one thing Harvard does best on The Inevitable and I
it is memorable climaxes. These parts are compounded by Jesse’s lyrical work, and would in fact be meaningless without it. Hand to Hesitate features a particularly emotional coda, with Jesse crooning “I miss the way you hesitate, I miss the way you elevate” over the backdrop of a vicious rhythm section. Moments like this occur numerous times throughout the album, but rather than becoming a cliché, they operate more like a motif which is continually revised and revisited. Between all of these instances, Jesse’s lyrical work ties everything together beautifully. Following suit with the music, his lyrics fluctuate between the obscure and accessible hooks. As with his solo work, he manages to present a mature, thoughtful, and yet still catchy vocal style. By far the most relatable moments on the album occur during softer pieces, where the real emotional side of Harvard is allowed to show. It is during these segments where the band is at their greatest appeal, perhaps even sounding a bit on the “cute” side.
The Inevitable and I
itself is undoubtedly a well-paced album, if not a bit on the long side. There is a definite variance in styles, but everything is still kept concise enough to avoid any red herrings. A few songs do present themselves as a bit weaker in composition, and perhaps they could have been omitted in respect of time, but they are not enough to negatively impact the album. What is striking here is how many of the album’s songs manage to impress, and how consistent the overall tracklisting is. Songs like French Girls fluctuate between groovy verses and pounding choruses, while others like Ghost (perhaps the strongest song on The Inevitable and I
) continually drive forward, passing through scores of enjoyable riffs and melodies. The lack of filler here is impressive, especially given the length of fourteen tracks.
Strangely enough, Harvard is not a band I expected to enjoy so greatly. After running across a few songs one day, I decided to purchase this album on a whim. There was something about the band’s direction that grew on me greatly in the first few weeks. Before long I couldn’t stop listening to this album. Quite notable is the instrumental talent; particularly the guitar work done here, which is both flowing and elegant, occasionally screaming out with furious bouts of energy. All of this is tied together by the overlooked drummer, whose intricate and tasteful style subtly adds an additional layer of complexity to the music. Still, most important to the mix is the frontman, Jesse Clasen. His lyrical work, passionate vocals, and ability to make this kind of music accessible to the fans are the factors which make The Inevitable and I
worth listening to. Though certainly not a perfect debut by any means, the pure youthful exuberance found on this album manages to render any negatives as superfluous. As respectable as the institution they take their name from, Harvard continually reward on their debut album.