Album Review: Balance and Composure - 'Separation'

23 May 2011 | 4:49 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

An album for all respectable top 10 lists this year.

More Balance And Composure More Balance And Composure

2011 has already been a great year for independent pop punk and emo. With some impressive releases from Transit and Man Overboard, and Title Fight’s hugely anticipated album “Shed” recently turning heads the world over, it’s shaping up to be a cracker. Perhaps the best yet, however, is Balance and Composure’s debut full-length “Separation”. B&C really nailed their sound with the EP “Only Boundaries”, which was only reinforced by the excellent split that was put out with fellow Pennsylvania locals Tigers Jaw. A far cry from their somewhat hit-and-miss debut “I Just Want To Be Pure”, their latest effort “Separation” is an unfalteringly solid, mature and enjoyable record.

While it’s definitely appropriate to label “Separation” emo, Balance and Composure bump up the lyrical sincerity and cut the hyperbole of mid-2000's bands that managed to so masterfully taint that genre’s name. Having said that, B&C’s influences span far beyond obvious Brand New comparisons, incorporating elements of 90s grunge and even at times a taste of some good old blues. Sound-wise, band’s use of three guitars creates a rich and emotional soundscape, which can at times be both beautiful and heavy. Singer Jon Simmons perfectly conveys the melancholy of his lyrics through his balance (no pun intended) of stellar singing and harsher, screamed vocals. Unlike many of their punk peers Balance and Composure craft long and carefully structured songs, creating a profound sense of atmosphere for the listener.

From its haunting initial riff, the opener “Void” is nothing less than incredible. This song offers B&C’s darkest work to date, signalling a huge departure from their early pop punk leanings and reflecting an almost Placebo-like level of musical maturity. The album then slips into the title track “Separation”, which brings us back into more familiar territory. “Galena”, “Patience” and “I Tore You Apart in My Head” provide the album’s harder hitting numbers, which reflect this band’s post-hardcore roots and are definitely highlights of the record. Equally, however, the more low-key tracks such as “Stonehands”, “Fade” and “Echo” are really where Balance and Composure shine, with spine-tingling melodies and heartbreaking choruses. On the closer “Defeat The Low” a heavy grunge influence is apparent through the languid and rocky riffs. Unlike the disaffected apathy of their 90s buddies, however, the heartfelt sadness conveyed by B&C will produce a lump in your throat and keep hooks in your head for a long, long time. In “Patience”, Simmons sings “sad song, you’ve got humming right along”. Amen to that.

Balance and Composure have created a near-perfect album which in my view is an instant classic. For a young band, they have improved out of sight in their short career and have created something truly special. The song-writing and lyricism is of the highest order, providing a record which promises to both jerk a tear and have you dancing before it’s over. “Separation” is a must-hear release, and will be one of the best albums of 2011.

1 Void
2 Separation
3 Quake
4 Stonehands
5 I Tore You Apart In My Head
6 Galena
7 Fade
8 Progress, Progress
9 More To Me
10 Echo
11 Patience
12 Defeat The Low