Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Album Review: Balance & Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing

Album Rating: A
When Balance & Composure released its first full-length album Separation back in 2011, it thrust the band into the underground limelight. Touring alongside larger bands like Circa Survive hooked new fans and spread the band's gritty, emotional hard rock across the country. From the sweeping choruses to the atmospheric intricacies, The Things We Think We're Missing succeeds Separation in almost every way. A top-tier contender for album of the year, it showcases some of the best delicate maturation and evolution of any record out there.

The Doylestown, PA five-piece have churned out 13 new tracks for their second LP. Each song is intricately crafted like a fine microbrew, with subtleties and nuances echoing and buzzing behind the stadium quality drums and roaring guitars. The sound is crisp, with clear depth thanks to Will Yip's tremendous production. Opener "Parachutes" sets the album's sound in motion, recalling the band's split-era headbangers but showcasing more finesse and focus. "Back of Your Head" begins with a somber, hazy intro before launching headfirst into a warm, groovy rocker. Despite the mid-tempo launch and the song's relative heaviness, it still feels accessible and is never overwhelming.

This heavy-meets-leisure approach continues throughout the album. "Notice Me" has a grungy, bare-bones guitar riff that weaves into the jingles and swaying vibes of the verses, while the almost-ballad of "I'm Swimming" bounces between ethereal clean picking and distorted chorus backings. "Reflection," one of the highlights of The Things We Think We're Missing, is a dreamy anthem. Stuck somewhere between the worlds of shoegaze and post-hardcore, it's the epitome of all that Balance & Composure's sound has become in its purest form. "When I Come Undone" is another highlight, characterized by jungle beats and a catchy chorus as Jon Simmons croons "Can't you see me crumbling/Aren't you feeling on my heartbeat/I wanna hear you say/when I call, pick me up when I come undone/When you're healthy, we'll fill an empty space." Closer "Enemy" is a complex bookend, combining atmosphere and hard rock to create a popcorn ball of sweet harmonies laced with the salty aftertaste of a bitter revelation.

With all of the high points, it's hard to find lows to complain about, especially when the album is so refined. "Ella" is a short interlude that could have benefited from elaboration, while "Cut Me Open" could have been truncated a bit. The acoustic track "Dirty Head" is quite dry and, honestly, abrasive. It's odd to hear such stripped down song after such stratosphere destroying tracks like "Reflection." The album also lacks the noticeable straight-up heavy side the band is known for producing, such as with "Rope," "I Tore You Apart In My Head" and "Patience," but at the same time it's great to see the band straying from the hard rock elements of their last record (if you forgive the thrown-in screams at the end of "Notice Me.")

The Things We Think We're Missing is a huge step for Balance & Composure. It is the band's most well-written material to date, transcending other alt-rock bands through evolution. Jon Simmons' lyrics are catchier and more introspective, which he pours into melody through his almost monotonous but always identifiable croons. Bailey Van Ellis lends a furious hand with his work on the drums, while Erik Petersen, Matt Warner and Andrew Slaymaker create a musical paradise through their guitars. Together, they create something cohesive and enduring, spitting in the face of radio bands that have tarnished the genre of hard rock. Don't be surprised to see Balance & Composure headlining the House of Blues within the next year, as these 13 tracks prove that the band definitely has what it takes to be the next big thing.

Cathartic and ethereal, The Things We Think We're Missing is massive. You need this in your life. Stream it here. Buy it now.

Album Rating: A


1. Parachutes
2 Lost Your Name
3. Back Of Your Head
4. Tiny Raindrop
5. Notice Me
6. Ella
7. Cut Me Open
8. Reflection
9. I'm Swimming
10. When I Come Undone
11. Dirty Head
12. Keepsake
13. Enemy

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