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Balance & Composure - Separation Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 9.25
Lyrics 8.5
Production 8.25
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 9.25
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 90%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.58
Musicianship 9.46
Lyrics 9.25
Production 8.96
Creativity 9.23
Lasting Value 9.4
Reviewer Tilt 9.54
Average: 93%

Balance & Composure - Separation

Reviewed by: Thomas Nassiff (05/09/11)
Balance & Composure - Separation
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record Label: No Sleep Records

It's May. A lot of reviewers write during this month about those summer albums that will define the next few months for America's youth: the sky-high vocals and enormous hooks that will erupt from car stereo systems and overflow out open windows and into hot and humid summer air. Balance & Composure's first full-length record, Separation, doesn't have those airy, lightweight melodies that normally accompany beach trips or patriotic fireworks displays. It does, however, have one extremely important intrinsic quality to it - it's probably the best record released in 2011 so far.

Separation is Balance & Composure's third release on No Sleep Records, but the first time listeners get to hear a full record from the Doylestown, Penn., natives. With the release of their Only Boundaries EP in 2009 and a split with Tigers Jaw last year, listeners became frenzied fans of the band's loud-quiet-loud-quiet-really loud brand of indie rock in a hurry. But even if you include Balance's self-released I Just Want To Be Pure EP into the mix, Separation still almost doubles this group's discography. Since people call me a critic, I was supremely interested in evaluating how the band's consistently steady sound would hold up over the course of 12 tracks.

Separation doesn't just live up to the self-earned standards that Balance & Composure have given themselves by releasing good music in the past, it takes those standards, writes them all on a piece of paper, burns it to ashes and writes a book on how this genre should be done. It's difficult to define adjectives that accurately convey Jonathon Simmons' complex vocals or the depth behind the guitar work that Simmons, Andrew Slaymaker (best name or best name?) and Erik Peterson throw down. While those enormous hooks aren't found here, Matthew Warner's bass and Bailey Van Ellis' drums constitute one of the more underrated rhythm sections in the underground, providing plenty of excitement on their own without needing to be launched into the very forefront to do it.

From the very first seconds of "Void," listeners hear the intensity Separation brings. Things start off with the cleaner side of Simmons' bipolar yet perfectly complementing vocals, which range from seemingly effortlessly uttered to obviously passionately screamed. "Found out everyone is shallow / No depth, the ugly seem to follow / Blinded void, gaping hole / Weed out the visions you saw / Speak out, you talk for us all," begins the record, diving right into serious subject matter from the outset. The intensity of "Void" accurately foreshadows the dark, wintry moods of this entire release, but leads into two of the more accessible numbers on Separation with the title track and "Quake." On the former, Simmons' vocals lead the way before stepping out to let the guitars and drums speak for themselves. By the end of the track, Simmons' first real fiery screams are launching listeners into cavalcading musicianship. Meanwhile, the chorus of "Quake" shows why the band chose to release this track to the masses first.

Part of the reason why Separation comes across as a coherent unit is because of the tracks that deviate away from Balance & Composure's normally relentless pounding of 90s grunge and today's punk. The mid-tempo breathers give listeners a chance to catch their breath while still showcasing impressive musicianship all the while. "Stonehands" is the major mid-tempo jam on the record, while "More To Me" comes in disguised as one of those songs before culminating into a notable explosion.

Balance is at its best when it's playing as loud as it can and Simmons is screaming out cutting lyrics. All aspects of this band's sound are essential and well-executed, but the quiet and cleaner parts really just make the louder and dirtier parts more enjoyable. "I Tore You Apart In My Head," "Fade" and "Patience" are the best at being deafening, which is why they are the most essential tracks from this record. Each of the tracks are highlighted by something a little different; "I Tore You Apart In My Head" has perhaps the most relatable set of lyrics on the record, while "Fade" is the best example of the kinda-quiet to very-loud style and "Patience" just comes off as a catharsis all in itself. Meanwhile, closer "Defeat The Low" isn't too shabby on its own, keeping up blow-for-blow with the other heavyweights on Separation.

Upon first listen, Separation is a devastating record. Without having heard this much Balance & Composure all at once before, long-time listeners will probably feel a mixed soup of emotions throughout the album. By the end of the outstandingly enjoyable 48 minutes and 24 seconds, perhaps the most evident emotion will be an overwhelming sense of, "Where the hell did my expectations just get shot to?" After the crater-sized impact of the first few listens is where Separation really starts to shine. As all great records do, this album finds its niche and thrives there. Throughout time, the role of this record might shift as both Balance & Composure and its listeners grow older, but the quality of Separation will make it forever relevant.

Recommended If You LikeOld B&C, Brand New's Daisy if Daisy was way better than it was.
Follow Me On TwitterI tweet mysterious clues about things that are secrets.
Bare Essentials1. 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
Produced By: Brian McTernan, Run Time: 48 minutes
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Buy It Here
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Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 110
09:44 PM on 05/09/11
Thomas Nassiff
resuscitation of the year
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Thomas Nassiff's Avatar
One thing I'm not understanding at all is the hate on McTernan's production. Sure, it's not the best thing ever, but I really enjoy how this record sounds. Maybe it's something I'm just not as picky about.
10:06 PM on 05/09/11
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taborbrown's Avatar
Such a fantastic album!!!
10:18 PM on 05/09/11
Regular Member
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AshesOfAHero's Avatar
Good review, I can't wait to hear this album. Stoked.
10:30 PM on 05/09/11
Fish Man Alex
Regular Member
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Fish Man Alex's Avatar
One thing I'm not understanding at all is the hate on McTernan's production. Sure, it's not the best thing ever, but I really enjoy how this record sounds. Maybe it's something I'm just not as picky about.
Mcternan has produced dozens of records that have influenced me to a great extent. He can do no wrong, and neither can this band.
10:33 PM on 05/09/11
Focus on the horizon.
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Sheluligans's Avatar
Didn't live up to my expectations unfortunately.
10:44 PM on 05/09/11
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Momo32T's Avatar
One thing I'm not understanding at all is the hate on McTernan's production. Sure, it's not the best thing ever, but I really enjoy how this record sounds. Maybe it's something I'm just not as picky about.
I have the same sentiments as you. Maybe I don’t have the ear that other people do for production, but I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the albums he has produced. Then again, that may be only because of the bands that have released those albums (Thrice, Senses Fail, Circa Survive, etc.)
11:01 PM on 05/09/11
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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Adam Pfleider's Avatar
amazing record, but don't dis Daisy....
11:15 PM on 05/09/11
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evilandgood's Avatar
The RIYL was spot on.
11:19 PM on 05/09/11
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JimmyAveningo's Avatar
amazing record, but don't dis Daisy....
I've gotta agree. Both great records...B&C's is better but not as risky
11:23 PM on 05/09/11
Nick Le
Yeezy taught me.
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Nick Le's Avatar
Great review Thomas. Album is amazing.
11:29 PM on 05/09/11
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No Avatar Selected
RIYL Daisy minus the creativity.
11:30 PM on 05/09/11
Thomas Nassiff
resuscitation of the year
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Thomas Nassiff's Avatar
Daisy was an abomination to me, but only because it was Brand New. Had it been another band...probably would have been looked at 100% differently.
11:30 PM on 05/09/11
Thomas Nassiff
resuscitation of the year
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Thomas Nassiff's Avatar
RIYL Daisy minus the creativity.
Who else is making music like B&C? I don't see how it's not creative.
11:41 PM on 05/09/11
Pretty eyed, pirate smile
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alexa_ATL's Avatar
"Brand New's Daisy if Daisy was way better than it was."

hahaha, great review. Second favorite release this year thus far, only behind ManOrch.
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