Balance and Composure

Separation

Written by: DR on 11/05/2011 00:25:14

At long last, Balance and Composure's eagerly awaited debut album is here. They self-released their first EP, "I Just Want To Be Pure", three years ago, and were subsequently signed to No Sleep Records. The excellent "Only Boundaries" EP followed, and that made quite an impression on their scene as it wasn't long until they paired up with Tigers Jaw to release a split, of which B&C had the better side.

There's a natural progression from one release to the next, and in their own way they are all excellent. Fans will be pleased to hear that "Separation" marks another step in their evolution, and it is quite possibly their best work yet.

Initially, "Separation" takes a few spins to grow on you. Part of the reason for this is the step in progression, and part is down to Brian McTernan's production. While an improvement on certain recent releases, his production is still at times a bit flat and lacking punch, especially when compared with the excellent sound the split had. The drums can be too tinny, and you often forget this band have three guitarists given how subdued in the mix they are. That being said, in the grand scheme of this album the production is only a minor complaint, as B&C more than make up for it.

Vocalist Jonathan Simmons benefits from being so far forward in the mix by delivering his finest vocal work to date. One of the key factors in B&C's sound is his voice, and the passion that permeates through every word he sings, screams and shouts. Although he screams considerably less on this record, there are tracks such as "I Tore You Apart In My Head", with it's opening cries of "I tore you apart in my head!", and the ear-splitting epic "Patience", that are as good as any song in their discography so far.

The more 'in-your-face' numbers are the unquestionable album highlights. However, there are a few melodic offerings that give the listener a chance to regain their composure. "Echo" uses a piano, atmospheric guitar-work and echo-effects on the vocals to create their most expansive effort to date. The slow-burner "Stonehands", in particular the opening lyric "Don't say goodbye to me too fast, even though I'm fast asleep", displays a vulnerability to Simmons' voice not heard since "I Can't Do This Alone".

Those of us who have grown up with this band over their short career may take a while to adjust to some of the more streamlined songs, like "Separation", "Galena" and "Quake", which are stylistically more of a departure from their earlier releases, and instead seem more intended for alternative radio stations. Not that this is a bad thing, as their hallmark passion is still present, and in fact, the latter is one of the catchiest songs of the year so far.

With "Separation", Balance and Composure have managed to adopt a more modern alternative style that will inevitably draw comparisons with Brand New, but still remains rooted in the influence of Sunny Day Real Estate and Neutral Milk Hotel. The end result doesn't just exceed all expectations, it blows them through the roof.

Download: Patience, I Tore You Apart In My Head, Quake, Stonehands
For The Fans of: Sunny Day Real Estate, Brand New, Title Fight, Crime in Stereo
Listen: Stream it all on their official site

Release Date 10.05.2011
No Sleep Records

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