For Fans Of
With 2016 already featuring so many outstanding records from both new and established acts, it really twists the knife in when an album that you’ve been looking forward to for years, finally arrives and ultimately lets you down. Especially coming from a band that is as talented as Pennsylvania’s Balance And Composure, and off the back of 2013’s stellar ‘The Things We Think We’re Missing‘ no less.
With the band returning to producer/engineer Will Yip (Tigers Jaw, Title Fight, Blacklisted), ‘Light We Made’ marks the most severe departure from the band’s guitar-heavy, alternative rock sound. Where ‘Separation’ paired Brand New’s lyricism with a reinvigorated grunge sound a la Nirvana, and ‘The Things We Think We’re Missing’ built on their penchant for melody with angsty, emotional dynamics, new album ‘Light We Made’ is sparse and minimalistic by comparison. Lead singles ‘Afterparty’ and ‘Postcard’ show Balance And Composure reinterpreting their older material into mid-tempo indie-meets-shoegaze tracks, with shimmering guitars and programmed drum beats, hinting at influences as diverse as Minus The Bear and Nothing, to old guard acts like Slowdive, Swervedriver, and even My Bloody Valentine. Contemporaries like Title Fight and Pianos Become The Teeth have already navigated into similar musical waters, so it’s certainly not surprising to see this band venture down this path in search of more mature songwriting.
Overall disappointment aside, tracks like ‘Call It Losing Touch’ and ‘Is It So Much To Adore’ show that these guys haven’t completely lost their knack for intricate harmonics, with driving riffs and some exciting interplay between guitarists Erik Petersen and Andy Slaymaker. Opener ‘Midnight Zone’ and ‘For A Walk’ rely heavily on warbly synths and programmed drums from Bailey Van Ellis, while vocalist/guitarist Jon Simmons expands his range into falsetto territory — a change that he references lyrically on ‘Fame.’ Also, there are times on tracks like ‘Spinning’ and ‘Loam’ where the listener may swear they can hear the low-end thrum of bassist Matt Warner, but they won’t really be certain of it.
Admittedly, on the first listen, ‘Light We Made’ can come off quite boring and uninspired, and it’s downright sinful that a group with three guitarists can make compositions that just fall so flat and tepid. The dynamic range that once made tracks like ‘I Tore You Apart In My Head’ and ‘Parachutes’ so successful, seems but a sad and distant memory now. The softer moments of this record fit in unexpectedly well against their alt-grunge sound, and this may translate well to a live setting, allowing their louder moments more room to breathe and land effectively. However, for now, the real secret to enjoying ‘Light We Made’ comes in the approach: namely, putting it on shuffle with the rest of the band’s discography.
Ultimately, ‘Light We Made’ isn’t a bad record, it’s just a mediocre one. The ten tracks on offer here are devoid of the spark and energy that once made Balance And Composure such an exciting and compelling act. This transition seems wholly intentional on the part of the group, however, time will tell whether it leads to further success or a period of darkness on an otherwise bright career.
- Midnight Zone
- For A Walk
- Mediocre Love
- Call It Losing Touch
- Is It So Much To Adore
‘Light We Made’ is out October 7th via Vagrant Records. Pick it up here.