The Academy Is... blends the yearning vocals and tense slivers of guitar common to groups like Sleeping at Last, Hidden in Plain View, and labelmates/pals Fall Out Boy. However, the Chicago combo isn't as concerned about causing a racket as some of its peers, as the huge hooks of "Attention" and "Phrase That Pays" prove. William Beckett carries the latter's melody with his velvety, bordering on histrionic vocals, and though the electric guitars crash behind him, they never tread into roaring post-hardcore territory. No screaming alternate vocals, no jarring instrumental breaks or squalls of feedback. "Black Mamba"'s underlying urgency takes a turn for the jaunty in the chorus, and an acoustic guitar rattles in there, too. "Classifieds" and "Slow Down" are equally strong, switching up the tempos and mixing in harmonies so their edges stay soft even when the guitars get loud. This doesn't mean that the Academy Is... is somehow soft -- no more so than similar, lyrics-as-confessional acts like Early November. It's clear that the songwriting team of vocalist Beckett and guitarist Michael Carden wants to keep Almost Here melodic and very accessible, and the pair succeeds throughout the record. "Checkmarks" features another powerful singalong chorus, "Skeptics and True Believers" moves along at a faster pace, and "Down and Out" kicks in on robust Midwestern power chords. The Academy Is... would benefit from more of this Weezer-derived bottom end. But the band's slick pop yen is impressive enough throughout Almost Here to make it a strong debut.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus