I’m Sure extends far beyond viral track “Swing Lynn”


I’m Sure is the debut indie rock album by solo musician Harmless, formerly known as Twin Cabins. It was released all the way back in August of 2012 and went relatively unnoticed except for one song.

One of the album’s closing tracks, “Swing Lynn,” has gained popularity on the social-media app TikTok over the past few years, accumulating around 120 million listens on Spotify. The rest of the album’s stats don’t reflect the popularity of “Swing Lynn” though, with a mean listens of only 736,196 per song.

This really shouldn’t be the case; nearly every song on this album is a loveable, indie rock anthem that deserves the recognition that “Swing Lynn” has received.

“Lonely Summer” opens the tracklist by reflecting the album’s mood in both name and sound. Its melancholic and nostalgic sound brings back memories of dark and rainy days spent inside. The guitar is poppy, simple and melodic, and it sort of lures the listener into a sense of contentment before the lyrics come in. Not unpleasantly, not uncomfortably, but reflective and small. This is a trend throughout the tracklist: soft, timid and yet powerful vocals with muffled and vivid lyrics. Ambiance wraps the track like the drone of planes descending over Portland, fading the song out with a very dreamlike feeling. This song is definitely one of the album’s highlights.

The second song, “Cool Kids,” is a breath of fresh air in this bumpy acclimation to the surreal and entrancing world of Harmless. It is a great example of Harmless’s ability to seamlessly merge happy and sad songs without breaking the overarching mood. It is electric and catchy with a love story that matches, but by the end returns to the cold isolation of “Lonely Summer.” The instrumentation has an 80s feel that really fits the album overall. The drumbeat, which in many of the tracks suffers from a classic indie oversimplification, has a fun fill that pans back-and-forth between speakers. “Cool Kids” is the induction ceremony of the listener into I’m Sure’s sound.

The album’s middle track, “Pier Cafe” is the perfect calming interlude. Layed between the looping tension and release of “Bridges” and the fast, energetic “I’m Sure,” it’s the first and last breather the album gives you. The same melody loops with the soothing lo-fi guitar tone present throughout the album, giving a feeling of comfort and reliability like a family home. Towards the end of the song, the melody complicates as a second guitar joins in. The cool cacophony of strings with reverb leads the listener into the second half of the album, where the more complex and memorable songs lie. “Pier Cafe” is sleepy and drowsy, like a walk home through heavy rain under the cover of trees.

The biggest flaw in I’m Sure is its lack of variety. Nearly every song conforms to the same dreamy, reverb-heavy pop sounds. The seventh song, “San Again,” is one of the few times that this mold is broken, and in quite a cool way. The guitar tones stay the same but there is no lead guitar cranking out melodies, just soft chords. The drums are gone too; the guitar strumming handles that. The song keeps a lot of its power while cutting down on complexity. It’s very much a hybrid between dream-pop and folk. To top it all off, there is a satisfying guitar solo that leads the song to its latter half. While this song does not single-handedly fix I’m Sure’s issue with lack of variation, it certainly helps.

“Pretty Bones,” one of the album’s closing tracks, does two things well. It highlights the vocal talent of Harmless and shows that there is such a thing as too much of a good sound. Coming off the heels of “San Again,” one might hope it too would deviate from the album’s formula, but instead it’s right back to the sound echoed constantly throughout. Still, the vocals more than make up for this song’s flaws. They are genuine, emotional and one of the best performances on the whole album, ringing out like distant howls from untapped forests. Here, Harmless’s vocals harmonize perfectly with those of Mona Maruyama, who appears on several other tracks including “Laika” and “Bridges.” This song pretty much sums up the pros and cons of I’m Sure’s tracklist.

As previously mentioned, the album’s second-to-last song, “Swing Lynn,” is the most popular tune from the album since it went viral online, greatly overshadowing the others. While it’s strange that “Swing Lynn” is the top-dog of the album by such a margin, it definitely shines as one of the best. Its intro is brilliant: a slow, repeating descent that suddenly shoots into the chorus like a roller coaster building momentum. The vocals are the clearest and most emphasized that they get on the album, and the lyrics are cryptic while imparting a bitter-sweet feeling. The post-chorus is pure emotion with loud and unafraid singing and guitar. The drums on this track are also outstanding. At first, they may seem tired and boring, like they were just an afterthought, but then they suddenly pull out these great fills that add so much to the song. This song is rightfully the longest on the album; it’s the most masterfully complex and one of the most polished.

I’m Sure is a fantastic album worth listening to far beyond the mega-popular “Swing Lynn.” It’s unique and fun, even if it seems a little like Harmless found the right sound but didn’t know how to expand it. There is a certain feeling on cold and rainy days in the middle of the Portland winter when the sun sets too early that I’m Sure perfectly encapsulates, making it the perfect listen for anyone looking to beat the heat this summer.