Balance And Composure
Light We Made
Three years after 2013’s The Things We Think We’re Missing, Balance And Composure have returned with an unbridled yet mature record that sets out to explore new boundaries of self-expression. For their major-label debut on Vagrant Records/BMG, Light We Made offers a sense of direction for a band that has traditionally appeared as an alternative to its own alternative scene. Too grungy to mesh with their pop-punk compatriots on No Sleep Records, and still polarizing enough to remain outside the broader indie-rock realm, Light We Made reveals a new sense of agency via Jon Simmons’ confident new vocal technique and experimentation with stronger electronic elements.
Characteristic of their previous albums, Light We Made’s opening track serves as a thesis for the rest of the record. Much like “Parachutes” and “Void” provided roadmaps for the emotional, raw vocals and bright, distorted instrumentation on The Things We Think We’re Missing and Separation, “Midnight Voices” employs a new droning, conversational vocal style with a stronger electronic presence that permeates the record and allows for more subdued guitar, bass and drum parts. These stylistic endeavors are made clear with the record’s lead single, “Postcard,” where Simmons combines the fervent vocals and dynamic melodies of the choruses with verses of suppressed, almost muttered lyrics. Their second single, “Afterparty,” reinforces these new tactics, but leaves a hint of something frustratingly familiar. The newfound tamed instrumentation and restrained vocals conjure memories of early works in the genre, such as Alkaline Trio’s Crimson, another Vagrant release from its more notable golden era of punk and emo. Simmons channels a morose yet commanding voice, akin to that of Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano’s performances on Crimson tracks such as “Time To Waste,” “Your Neck” and “Smoke.”
Taking these adventurous developments and hints of nostalgic inspiration into consideration, the record does dip into a lull. On “For A Walk,” the record’s most aggressive vocal and guitar work are buried in the mix behind new electronic approaches. The effects laid on Simmons’ vocals are just audible enough to remind the listener of the band’s ferocious roots while being clearly overpowered by the catchy, refined beat that dominates the track. Despite these moments of dissonance, the sense of agency on Light We Made is transparent in its mission to broaden the band’s sound and discard any notions of close-mindedness.
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