ATP! Album Review: Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We’re Missing
A group of young, talented musicians have managed to resurrect the highlights of 90s grunge/alt rock while simultaneously building on the fundamentals of their authentic sound to create a simply jaw-dropping release.
Balance & Composure have been at it for a few years now, particularly with the success of their highly lauded debut album, Separation . The band’s history and seasoned discography displays their lyrical and musical growth since their inception. What we can hope is that their sophomore album is the push they needed to acquire the full-time highly acclaimed musician status they so well deserve.
There was a load of anticipation building up to the new record - not only as a direct result of their impressive discography and energetic live shows. Collectively, let us all admit that we lost our shit when B&C released, "Reflection," because the track is one of the best songs they have ever written, both lyrically and musically. There’s not much else to say besides that - just listen to it and see for yourself. To generalize, this record is, by far, their best work to date.
The jam "Parachutes" gets the momentum started on The Things We Think We’re Missing. The track is not the bouncy, blood-pumping, “HEY! LET’S GO!” introductory song that is so typical of modern rock albums. In fact, "Parachutes" is parallel to "Living Together," the opening track to Circa Survive’s, On Letting Go . (Psst! Anthony Green makes a guest appearance on "Keepsake" and it is fantastic). Both tracks have a singled-out guitar part that plays at a slightly different tempo or rhythm to the rest of the instruments at times, and their peaks rest in the infectious rhythms as well as their strong vocalists; in B&C’s case, vocalist/guitarist Jon Simmons emits such blood-curdling screams on "Parachutes" and throughout the record that they will make any listener quake in their shoes.
The band has worked with an army of acclaimed music producers and engineers to make the great work of The Things We Think We’re Missing even greater. Their team consisted of experts who have worked with the likes of Sunny Day Real Estate, Title Fight, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Foo Fighters. So, it's no wonder that the record is adorned with classic B&C sounds meshed with some 90s alt rock curb appeal.
Two songs on TTWTWM that are very frank in the 90s rock influenced part of the record are "Back of Your Head" and "Notice Me." What starts as a slow, eerie, looming destruction feeling coming from a single guitar and the tone of Simmons’ laments quickly adjusts to an enticing grungy beat, accompanied with semi-lax lead vocals overlapping some background screams of the same lyrics. "Back of Your Head" continues to dwell in that dark undertone territory while holding onto the jumpy tempo throughout, while Simmons’ gutsy delivery of, “All you wanted was that feeling/All you wanted was that spark to glow and never fade away,” lingers in your thoughts well after the song ends. Now if you don’t listen to, "Notice Me" and immediately recognize some Nirvana influences within the first twenty seconds, you need to find a time portal and transport back to the 90’s, and just stay there. There is a ton of B&C and Nirvana stylings intertwined in this song; to put it simply, consider the idea of Nevermind’s "Lounge Act" and "Drain You" hooking up with Balance’s "Patience," and "Notice Me" is the result. To top it off, Simmons’ aggressive growls in the song’s final forty seconds will give you irreversible goosebumps and most likely haunt your deepest dreams.
"Cut Me Open" is more familiar with the B&C sound we all know and adore, with its driving guitars and heavy drums. Suddenly there is a pause, as the song dips into something that seems like it will evolve into a chant or gang vocals. Then you actually listen to it and hear Simmons vocalizing the words, “God save us men/Cut by jagged edge/Fall to your knees...” in a way that is reminiscent of a spiritual. The drums and vocals together make it feel like you are undergoing a religious experience, while the intricate guitar chords and arpeggios are genuine Balance and Composure. Songs like "I’m Swimming" and "When I Come Undone" display easily recognizable B&C melodies while introducing some dark alternative guitar tones similar to the likes of 3 Doors Down, Daylight, and The Dangerous Summer. "Dirty Head" stands out significantly on this record, but not in a way that causes a break in the continuity of sound and melodies. The track features Simmons and a single acoustic guitar, most likely recorded in one take by the sounds of it. The song feels sad and heavy-hearted, and is in a key that I’m sure most funeral hymns are written in. But it is the feeling of hearing Simmons’ emotional delivery within the lyrics and guitar playing that makes this track so powerful.
Not only is every song on The Things We Think We’re Missing completely remarkable, even for the high standards Balance and Composure have set for themselves, but the album is free-flowing from one track to the next. A lot of bands in the alt rock scene have released their sophomore record in 2013, and a lot of those bands have succeeded in avoiding the dreaded “sophomore slump” that plagues a few disappointing musicians each year. But Balance and Composure have created not only one of 2013’s best sophomore albums, but one of the year’s best alt rock records period. At this point, the only direction is up for Balance and Composure, because they have certainly displayed their potential at being astounding musicians with this record.
The Things We Think We’re Missing is out September 10th via No Sleep Records.