When HRVRD first released their debut The Inevitable and I, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Sure, with their soaring guitars, absolutely beautiful vocals and downright fun song structure, they didn’t exactly have a hard time pleasing my ear holes. There was always the nagging fact, however, that I’d heard it all before. It hit me about halfway through one of my spins that, I always sort of felt like I was listening to a some sort of Circa Survive project from another dimension. The guitars weren’t quite as “spacey” or “experimental” or whatever you want to call them, but they contained more than ample hints of their somewhat signature guitar work. The vocals of front man Jess Clasen while not quite as confusing and awe-inspiring as those of Anthony Greens, shared something I couldn’t quite place my finger on, perhaps it was the sometimes even pitching or pronunciation or certain words. Whatever it was, I always started listening to HRVRD and, about halfway through, decided I really would rather listen to Circa. Luckily, either because the band realized it, or just wanted to switch things up, somewhere between the time that Harvard became HRVRD they must have rooted out all the things that made them aspire to sound like a slightly more straightforward Circa Survive.
The result is an effort that is much more relaxed, but without compromising any of the vibrant instrumentals from their previous release. Rather than squealing guitars and chaotic electrics, the band elected for soothing atmosphere. Everything got toned down and more relaxed, providing a simpler, warmer, more inviting listen. Although the overall vibe is notably more tranquil, the instrumentals are wonderfully lush, with moments of horns and strings popping in and out of songs like secrets that can only be uncovered via close listening.
If the band’s name tweak is any indication, they seems to be intentionally setting themselves apart from their past, looking to start over and create a sound and a persona that is truly their own. Whether you enjoyed their previous release or not, it wouldn’t really seem to matter at this point. Neither is mutually exclusive, as the band seems to be turning over a new musical leaf.
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