Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Balance and Composure

The Things We Think We're Missing (2013)

No Sleep Records

If you're reading this, chances are good that at some point in your life, there was an album that completely consumed you. To you, this album was a perfect allegory of an imperfect time, a time when you were wrong, misled, confused or disappointed, either by your own actions or the actions of others. You listened to this album loudly through headphones – probably while lying on your bedroom floor and staring at the ceiling – and for a time, experienced that weird sensation of simultaneous isolation and connection, like driving home with a friend or significant other, holding hands but never saying a word.

For many, The Things We Think We're Missing will be that album. Few bands convey the strange mishmash of emotions that cloud relationships better than Balance and Composure, and this is their best work yet.

First of all, Missing is far louder, moodier and cloudier than B&C's excellent 2011 debut LP, Separation. Living up to its title, there was a palpable distance ingrained into those songs; you'd never know the band had three guitarists unless you checked the liner notes. Missing has a live-room feel, with a din permeating throughout nearly every moment like a pair of weary eyes. It's almost immediately evident in opener "Parachutes," as the guitars uglily dance around each other, rising and falling seemingly on a dime; as Jon Simmons sings I'm falling faster, so goes the distortion. It's a neat trick.

Throughout Missing, Simmons sounds fractured and vulnerable. His voice is often scratchy and his intonations desperate; he's singing about loss as he's seemingly losing his voice, which makes the words hit twice as hard, especially on the swirling "Lost Your Name." Background screams pierce the somewhat quieter "Back of Your Head" which leads into the devastating "Tiny Raindrop," which as Simmons has said, is about wanting someone but realizing your limitations: "It's a vision of being with someone you are infatuated with but eventually letting them down. You know when you're driving on a really nice day and everything is great and then you see that first raindrop on your windshield and it instantly ruins your day because you know what's coming? That's me in a relationship." Talk about a painfully relatable metaphor.

Missing remains stunningly consistent from there; "Reflection," "I'm Swimming" and "Keepsake" are maybe the most well-rounded songs on the album, with those moodier, vibier elements at the forefront thanks to captivating guitar play that's aided, as all of the album is, by the top-notch production of Will Yip. Yip, who has quickly become the producer nom du jour for rock bands in this scene, plays to Balance and Composure's strengths, letting the ugly parts stay ugly and using the muddled sound as another instrument instead of eradicating it. Being surrounded with these loud, tortured rock songs makes the austere, acoustic "Dirty Head" resonate much more than it would otherwise, too.

Time will certainly tell, but The Things We Think We're Missing has a chance to be a tentpole album in this scene, the kind of accomplishment that invokes deep feeling in everyone who listens to it and inspires a score of imitators. It's bitingly honest, thoroughly self-reflective and often, uncomfortably relatable. One of the best albums of the year.