Album Review: Balance & Composure – “Separation”

Balance and Composure have owed us (and probably themselves) a proper full-length for quite some time now. Expectations were high for the 5-piece; since their inception the band hit the ground running, leaving only rave reviews of their sporadic EPs in their wake. From the generally short EPs, it was clear that a band of their talent was capable of doing something far larger and more ambitious. Now we find ourselves in 2011 and the band has released their long-awaited full-length “Separation” on No Sleep Records. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed and almost unsurprisingly I wasn’t.

The album begins with the airy drone of “Void.” A lone guitar plucks away and quickly the band introduces the darker nature of the album with Jonathon Simmons’ voice dripping out from the speakers as he sings “found out everyone is shallow…” .  The mellow intro is then accompanied by a post-hardcore buzz of guitar feedback before the band kicks into a ridiculously catchy and energetic pulse reminiscent of the 90’s grunge rock movement. I decided to go into this track with particular detail because I feel like it strangely incorporates a lot of the elements that make “Separation” such a solid listen, even though it ticks out in a little over 2 minutes. The band is extremely comfortable cruising down in every gear and are capable of flawlessly incorporating their heavier moments with the quieter, spacier sections and these two with their infectious brand of darker pop.

Take “Quake” for example, which like most of the songs found on the album consists of layer upon layer of shifts in melodies, tempos and stylings. Yet the track sounds fluid and boundless, with enough pop twang to leave its contagious chorus spinning around your head at least until the next song grabs your interest. “I Tore You Apart In My Head” and “Patience” both come in kicking the door down with crunchy guitars and pounding drums while Simmons shreds his vocal chords with an energy not found in post-hardcore since Brand New released “Deja Entandu.” This is an element in Balance And Composure’s music that I have come to enjoy very much since I was introduced to them. Despite being usually pushed with bands such as Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, it’s their vibrant young angst that separates their music from that of their contemporaries. Though it’s impossible to deny that there isn’t a little bit of Jesse Lacey, Andy Hull and even Jeff Mangum in Simmons’ delivery, it’s when he sings verses such as: “Fuck what you told me / It all leads to smoking alone in my room in the end” and “Keep it inside and swallow whatever it is that keeps you warm” that he becomes the backbone of Balance and Composure’s brand of post-hardcore. I often find that as much as I love me some wonderfully airy and metaphorical lyrics it’s refreshing to find a voice that speaks as clearly as Simmons. Though it’s pretty clear who Balance and Composure listen to on their spare time, they are able to keep their collective head safely above water.

A band in their genre could fall into many potholes along the way, especially with an album as dangerously long as “Separation.” Fortunately the band has paid close attention to this detail. Every element is at the right portions and lengths; just when you thought “man, I’m about to get real bored of this little riff here” the band quit the lingering and take a stride into something new. Though I’m sure most people writing music listen to music, Balance and Composure were clearly trying to write an album that they would enjoy listening to. They’ve cut the fat that the genre often comes with and have produced a leaner and meaner final product. In today’s music it’s very hard to truly write new, original music without resorting to gimmicks, but that hasn’t stopped Balance and Composure from writing something intelligently refreshing. “Separation” may not find the band reinventing the wheel but honestly they probably weren’t trying to. At least they have taken the time and care to change out the old, worn out tires and put in new wheels on the post-rock/hardcore genre.

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