One of the most important aspects to any musical act is evolution. It’s easy to overdo, change too much and you’ll scare away your original audience. It’s just as easy to under-do – if a band keeps releasing music that sounds the same, fans will eventually get bored and won’t bother listening to new releases.
Fittingly, Balance and Composure has found the perfect balance of new and familiar with their latest record, “Light We Made.”
The sound they’ve created with this album is similar enough to their previous work to satisfy long-term fans and fresh enough to attract new ones.
In the past, the band has drawn from inspirations such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Brand New and Nirvana.
On “Light We Made,” BalCo embraces new influences, most notably the electronically-tinged Björk and Radiohead.
Radiohead’s influence can be heard immediately on the first track “Midnight Zone” with the droning background vocals which are reminiscent of the opening track on Radiohead’s seminal “Kid A.” The song opens up as frontman Jon Simmons’ alto vocals and the spacious guitars create an atmosphere that’s both minimalistic and complex.
That’s really the best way to describe this album – atmospheric. BalCo create a sound that incorporates electronic instrumentation, but manages to still feel organic.
A shining example of this is the album’s lead single “Postcard.” The synthetic 808 drum beats, combined with the airy guitars and Simmons’ lyrics about the loss of a loved one, develop an oddly human sound despite the prominence of electronics.
Simmons’ voice has massively improved since BalCo’s previous two records. In the past, his vocals, while appealing to punk and emo fans, could easily put some people off with their roughness. Here, Simmons’ makes more of an effort to give a technically solid performance.
When it comes to negative things to say about this record, there’s only one thing that comes to mind – towards the end of the track “For a Walk,” we have one of the band’s most ambitious implementations of electronics. However, they completely overshadow the intense vocals underneath them. They’re practically unnoticeable. It’s a confusing production choice, but luckily, it doesn’t detract from the album too much as a whole.
Lyrically, “Light We Made” isn’t much of a departure from BalCo’s previous full-length album, “The Things We Think We’re Missing.” Both albums deal with similar subject matters, however what distinguishes them from one another is their tone. “The Things” was a far angrier album, recorded perhaps not long after a breakup or fight with a significant other. “Light We Made” is far calmer, as if Simmons has come to terms with what happened prior to “The Things.”
Above all else, I must applaud BalCo for managing to embrace so many new ideas while still maintaining their distinct sound. Far too many bands attempt such a sound shift only to fall flat on their faces and ostracize both new and and existing listeners.
“Light We Made” is currently available to stream on Spotify and Tidal and to download from iTunes.