When you hear a record like this and you’re going to write about it, you really want to open up with some grandiose, sweeping statement that sets the tone for the next few paragraphs. I mean, that’s what we’re here for, album reviewers. To tell you that Balance and Composure wrote our album of the year, or whatever. Well, lists are unimportant, and album reviews are glorified blogs. And I have no sweeping statement for you, because The Things We Think We’re Missing leaves me – yes, me, a 22-year-old with a keyboard and reliable Internet connection – completely speechless.
The Things We Think We’re Missing is a significant record. It’s significant in the fact that it’s a new full-length album from one of the most beloved bands in our little community, coming at us in hotly anticipated fashion. It’s significant in the fact that this is the album that will provide Balance and Composure with a launching pad to leave this little community and move along to…wherever the fuck this band is going. Somewhere bigger with more ears listening. It’s a record that has true lasting value, the kind you feel in your bones; the kind where you know it doesn’t matter how many times you hear a song like “Lost Your Name,” because it’ll never feel played out. You know what I mean. You know the songs that you’ve listened to thousands of times but you’ll still never skip when they come up on a playlist. There are lots of those here.
When I reviewed Separation, I wrote that Balance and Composure took their self-earned standards, the ones they earned by releasing a great EP called Only Boundaries, burnt those standards to the ground and wrote a book on how their genre should be done. It makes me feel stupid when a band forces me to write the same thing twice – but The Things We Think We’re Missing completely overshadows Separation in most every way. It sounds terrific (you can thank producer Will Yip), its songs are better-crafted, Jon Simmons’ lyrics are more memorable and as a holistic entity, it acts as a wrecking ball determined to leave an impact upon the listener.
I expected something more subdued than Separation, something where Simmons & Co. explored the quieter parts of their sound rather than the deafening parts. I was completely wrong. B&C is louder, grittier, grungier, sadder, angrier and greater on LP2. And again, this word comes up: It’s a more holistically sound album.
Opener “Parachutes” proves that at its core, this band is still playing sad music that sounds angry. “A roller coaster ride in the dark to places I don’t want to go / Parachutes to break my fall, tangled up in deeper thought / Make falling faster, I’m falling faster.” Simmons starts that line with fiery, throaty yells then gets into his twangy, softer delivery before the band picks up into an avalanche of a chorus. “Lost Your Name” is a head-banger in every sense of the term. I’m convinced it was written to sound great on the record, only to be put to shame in a live setting. Simmons delivers an intense cry of, “I lost my head / I lost my heart” that kinda feels like, “Fuck what you told me / It all leads to smoking alone in my room in the end” felt like when I first heard it – simply begging to be played louder. When the track does slow down in its bridge, it does so in a pulsing, patient, calm-before-the-storm manner while drummer Bailey Van Ellis chases us back into a blistering pace.
The midtempo “Tiny Raindrop” has makings of an arena-sized alt-rock single; it’s perhaps the song that will best serve as a set opener when this band has to fill bigger rooms on the road with Coheed and Cambria. It evaporates into the muddy guitars of “Notice Me,” which glistens as the high point of The Things We Think We’re Missing. The track has some of Simmons’ most emotive lyricism: “Can’t seem to wash you from my sheets, now you know where I lay my head / I’m the spider in your room; I’ve got 8 eyes all on you / So stop pretending, you don’t mean the things you say.” The track later implodes on itself, Van Ellis’ cymbals crashing endlessly as Simmons repeats, “Notice me / notice me / notice me” until, exhausted, you’re ushered into the instrumental interlude “Ella.”
I could waste away another 1,000 words describing to you every song on this album – there isn’t really one worth skipping over. “Reflection” takes a sleepy melody and indents it into your brain courtesy of a nasty rhythm section; “Keepsake” takes Anthony Green’s guest vocals and shows off several aspects of what this band does so well; and closer “Enemy” shuts the door on this record in a way that requires immediate playback. The record’s only soft spot comes in the double-shot of the dragging “When I Come Undone” followed by the nakedly acoustic “Dirty Head” – but even these slightly weaker tracks make perfect sense in the flow of the record.
We again circle back to the holistic and cohesive nature of The Things We Think We’re Missing. This is a record that deserves to be listened to in its full context because while there are some great standalone tracks, it shines brightest when presented as a single product. It’s a sad album, it’s an angry album, it’s slow and it’s fast. Jon Simmons and the rest of this group confront getting older while playing a brand of rock and roll that has its roots in appealing to young people, but at the same time transcends age and demographics.
Rock and roll music confronts struggle, life, death, love, loss, relationships of all types, situations real and imaginary. We listen and strongly relate to stories told through the eyes of characters we’ll never meet, filtered through the lens of someone’s mind which we’ll never fully understand. It’s a beautiful thing this music presents us with, the chance to explicitly escape reality while simultaneously being our best weapon to confront it. While electronic music and radio pop find themselves embedded, fixed in the permanent present…rock and roll knows no hour. It’s as limitless and boundless as anything in this world can be, and The Things We Think We’re Missing illuminates that beautifully.
This is what those album reviewers mean, when they talk about setting the bar high.