“For a Walk” is one of the coolest and most experimental tracks Balance & Composure has ever released.
It’s been three years since we heard The Things We Think Are Missing from Pennsylvania-based emo post-hardcore outfit Balance & Composure. In that time, the emo revival has debatably evolved into what some critics have called post-emo, with releases by Foxing and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Balance & Composure has also experienced musical evolution and they’re ready to try and show that off in the opening track of Light We Made.
“Midnight Zone” starts the album out with a dark sounding synth that goes into a full-band downtempo beat with mysterious-sounding vocals. When the body of the song is introduced, the atmosphere from Jon Simmons’ vocal work feels post-rock inspired. While Balance & Composure has always had a unique vocal-layering style for bands in their genre, in the opening track alone, this is already some of the most creative vocal work we’ve heard from Simmons. The following track, “Spinning,” while lesser than “Midnight Zone,” continues on the established atmosphere.
Unique structures and vocal work is also found on “Afterparty,” but the album’s next real highlight is “For a Walk.” The song is one of the coolest and most experimental tracks Balance & Composure has ever released. The industrial-sounding guitar tones, the synth work, and eerie, distant, otherworldly monotone vocals show the musical range of which the band is capable, as well as potential musical directions in the future. Thankfully, the sounds and atmosphere introduced in “For a Walk” continue, and are somewhat expanded on in the following track “Medicore Love.” Lead single “Postcard” follows, and though initial reception of the track was questionable, this song works better in the context of Light We Made.
From here on out, however, we run into the problem with most Balance & Composure albums. The band has a tendency to wear out its welcome before the album has ended, and unfortunately, Light We Made is no exception. While the last half of Light We Made continues with some of the new sonics the band is exploring, the ideas don’t necessarily move forward from the first half of the album. “Call It Losing Touch” starts as one of the album’s most driving tracks. The song begins with a pop punk vibe, and in the chorus the band goes into a downtempo jam with a drum machine. However, the album’s ideas and sounds are starting to wear thin at this point, as it also doesn’t feel particularly new.
Lack of dynamic range is also an issue for Balance & Composure albums, and such is the case with the song “Fame.” The track has an interesting intro and outro, but the bulk of the actual song isn’t as ballsy, and goes into what we’ve already heard from the band. “Is It So Much To Adore,” another rocker, would’ve worked better earlier on the album, but then another song would lose its effectiveness. “Loam” is actually a really cool downtempo track, with a cool drum machine beat, that ends the album. However, as already stated, a good portion of this track’s effectiveness is lost by the time this track comes on.
Despite the creative efforts on Light We Made, another big issue Balance & Composure has here is a seemingly lack of energy. It’s a shame, considering these songs have some of the coolest and most interesting ideas the band has tapped into, but Balance themselves just don’t seem particularly interested. Another issue for this album is that it feels too safe. While a lot of remarkable ideas are presented at the start of songs, the actual body of the songs don’t continue those ideas, but rather go into a safe zone (with the exception of “For a Walk”). Take “Midnight Zone,” for instance: While a stellar track regardless, the intro of the song hints at a different body than what is actually accomplished.
The same can be said for “Fame,” and had they pushed themselves with this track to be more focused around the intro’s synth organ, it would’ve given the album more dynamic range. In some ways this album might’ve fared better as an EP rather than a full-length. This isn’t to say that the songs are bad, and honestly there’s not really a bad song here. The issue for Light We Made is that these songs work better individually rather than collectively (“Loam” is an example). However, these songs are still worthy of multiple listens—maybe, not collectively, but here and there on playlists. There are fascinating details within the songs individually that are worth re-exploring. C | Michael Cheng
Key tracks: “Midnight Zone,” “For a Walk,” “Loam”