Balance and Composure are still hard at work trying to find their sound and space within the alternative revival and reconceptualization of emo and punk genres. Like Title Fight’s Hyperview (2015) and Turnover’s Peripheral Vision (2015), Balance and Composure have relied heavily on elements of shoegaze to anesthetize the listener and provide a sense of feeling and emotion through punctuations in this benumbment. This I feel is where the band has always aspired to sit. Light We Made takes this dazed numbness to levels that far surpass the aforementioned Hyperview or Peripheral Vision, which could both be compared more closely with 2013’s The Things We Think We’re Missing.
Light We Made sees its biggest strength, perhaps, in the intersection it shares with the artistic development of pop-punk, emo, and alternative music in one corner, and the resurgence of 80s synth and new wave elements within modern indie in the other. Free from this album are the screams and emotional outbursts of Jon Simmons that used to drive their sets—a shift I noticed through their stage presence at a show in late January of 2015 in support of The Things We Think We’re Missing. Simmons has effectively numbed himself. The album centers around themes of disconnection and acceptance. Electronic elements and industrial, repetitive sounds form the driving force behind the album, building an impending sense of anxiety and tension that underpins the story Simmons is trying to preach.
Perhaps the most profound theme that lies behind this album is that of acceptance and openness. In each of these tracks Simmons develops an environment centered around uncertainty and desperation. Moments of confusion and dissonance seem to merge fluidly with ethereal and harmonious sequences of shoegaze guitar-work and cosmic synth patterns. As the album reaches Mediocre Love we get a sense that we are supposed to be disengaged from strong emotions and entwined within some form of detachment and inebriation not unlike that explained by Simmons in Fame.
“We’re killing ourselves for the wrong intentions,” sings Simmons over a muted and dreamlike guitar sequence in Fame, “I never came here for your heart.” In a sense we can grasp this sense of personal detachment and repression within the singer’s melancholy lyricism.
The album wraps up by defining the experience within a moment. He recognizes his own benumbing of experience and gets a glimpse of what it is that brought on feelings in the first place. “Inside a moment. Inside it’s over elevated, so serene,” he sings on Is It So Much To Adore?, a clear indication of the conditionality our experiences and emotions bring. This truly brings into question the real validity and point of our experiences and relationships. If they exist at such heights only in these moments in what context should they matter? Simmons’ answer: in memories. He’s seen how experience has paved the way for future success, its values gaining permanence in memorialization.
While Light We Made offers a deep exploration of the permanence of experience and feelings within our relationships, it is hard to see whether the experience provided by the album will maintain any permanence within the indie rock scene. Now sharing a label with The 1975 and AlunaGeorge, Balance and Composure show a distinct shift in sound not unexpected in the current redefinition of alternative music. Stylistically, Light We Made is wholeheartedly “college-rock” and “alternative” in that it represents a counter to the predominant stylistic wave that has capitalized much of the indie community. Emotionally, however, the album fails to provide any true relatable experience within the listener. While in For a Walk Simmon’s begs us to “show me who you are,” and pleads for us to “let your feelings show, it’s easier than you would ever know,” on Afterparty, he falls short in not reciprocating these requests and keeping his emotions hidden from us as well. I can’t help but walk away from this album not wholly unfazed, however. Perhaps this was the intention of Simmons himself. Regardless, Light We Made excites me for the evolutionary future of indie and emo music.
Matt Kavanagh ’17