In Harbour – The Hardest Part Is Learning To Swim
Record Label: none
Release Date: September 23, 2008
It’s unbelievably appropriate that as I sit down to write this review, it’s started to rain. Blue-gray clouds have been slouched over the city for the last couple of days and they’ve finally started to leak. Fat, lazy drops coast down my window and as I look between them, out over the rooftops, I can see the Boston Harbor. Its dark, murmuring surface mirrors the sky and the moored vessels are laughing nervously amongst themselves. As the storm hunches its shoulders and gets down to business, “Clarity” swirls out of my speakers.
Like the initial organization of staccato dots into steady ranks of weather, the first track of In Harbour’s debut EP, The Hardest Part Is Learning To Swim, doesn’t bother with vocals, instead laying a thick instrumental cloud from which the rest of the album will spill. Tones swell into riffs, which gather strength from the mounting snare rolls and launch against crashing cymbals until the mix reaches its peak. There’s only a brief pause before the “Storm Clouds Break.” As the contemplative guitars mount another slow crescendo, the first echoes of vocalist Brian Seidel’s words finally roll into view, six minutes and thirty three seconds in the album. It’s not long, though, before the song’s chorus is careening through the clouds as Seidel sings “Wandering aimlessly for so long/ Trying to find your way/ Seeing glimpses of bigger things/ Illusions take over me.”
“As Shallow Becomes Deep” finds the storm at its climax. The vocals soar to match the intensity of the arcing weather patterns, but the chorus instrumentation is missing something. While the thunder and lightning are putting on a brilliant stage show, the trees have remained obstinately still. What could be incredible is unfortunately only sufficient. Pulses slow with “Scapegoat” as the waterworks die down and we all sit on our porches to watch the overflowing gutters rush off to shed their burdens. Acoustically driven, the tune blends a vocal duet with just the right amount of drums to leave us wondering why “Reason can be found/ Why there needs to be a scapegoat.” This commotion was no one’s fault and it was everyone’s fault.
Before we have the chance to seep into the ground with the receding waters, the sun lances through the clouds with the album’s closer, “Clouds Roll On.” A pumping bass line supports ascending riffs and vocal calls that ring out the start of a new day. The music is uplifting, powerful, and passionate, but Seidel’s evocative voice doesn’t bear the weight to match his bandmates’ thick construction. It’s not a failure, but merely a bit of sagging water damage that could be repaired with a bit more confidence and experience.
It’s no surprise that In Harbour are seeing glimpses of bigger things. With barely a year under their belts, this group of youngsters shows a boatload of promise. Self-produced albums rarely sound as good as this and although there are weak spots vocally and instrumentally, they’re only the marks of a new band beginning their journey. Having weathered their first storm, In Harbour are looking to float on to larger waters and if I were you, I’d be watching the horizon for the next sign of their success.