Though Princeton is a SoCal band, they’ve spread themselves through a sense of East Coast beach music that takes a larger presence than anything of the Southern California vein. Sure, the rhythm of songs like “Grand Rapids” is relative to perhaps walking on the sands of Venice Beach, but location distinguishing is of little importance to the group’s vitality and especially how much of a weak affair Remembrance of Things to Come is. Whether you consider Princeton to be East Coast or West Coast, this album lacks the sophistication it needs to exceed or even succeed as a meaningful pop album.
The closest band to Princeton that comes to mind is Ra Ra Riot, a group that successfully brought symphonic elements to indie rock with sort of a fresh take. On The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot kept things fast and fun, and while Princeton appears to have a similar sonic agenda, their effort doesn’t get close to that level of breeziness and energy. Comparisons aside, the whole album struggles to have a special moment without even thinking about the band’s influences. There just is not enough to savor and it leaves the listener wondering, “is there something interesting on the other side?”
Sadly, the result of the question is never resolved, as its strongest point is the opening title track, which is absolutely the most impressive track vocally. The falsetto of Jesse Kivel is fantastic over the rest of the song; it’s on-key (with the exception of the closing track “Milly,” the album’s weakest song) and not used often enough, since the majority of the album shows him taking a Morrissey-styled approach. As a result, the initial supposition of Remembrance of Things to Come loses its ground and comes off as uninspired and bloated.
Paired with the vocal delivery, the lyrics do not help the singer’s presence on the bulk of their material. The song “Florida” spends a great deal of its stamina on the oddball notions of a could-be fictional or non-fictional situation. The track is sung in the same tone throughout, with seemingly thrown-together lines to create a story of a longing to depart from a tired place. It’s difficult to tell if these decisions were made to be ironic to the written material, perhaps to parody the mundane nature of desk life, but that hope gets counted out when the rest of the album is treated similarly with more force-lacking vocals.
The string arrangements are indeed pretty, and for the most part add an edge to the power of Remembrance of Things to Come, but they get to the point of feeling large enough in comparison to the band’s sound. They even allowed “This Weather, A Swimmer,” far and about their best musical effort from these sessions, to be left off the album. The other real driving force for Princeton is their use of piano, percussion, and synthesizers. Most of the synth is background-based and lays a foundation for the rest of the instrumentation, but it at least gives an identity to Princeton. As compelling as their musicianship may be conceptually, it rarely goes the distance on Remembrance of Things to Come.