Balance and Composure have always represented (for me at least,) a bridge between 90s grunge and emo music, and modern post hardcore bands. Therefore, upon seeing on Facebook that Balance would be releasing a split with Braid, an Illinois emo outfit actually from the 90s, I was eager to give it a listen. However, the first song of the split “Lux” by Braid, turned out to be a pretty big let down to my ears. The band is obviously instrumentally tight, having 20 years of experience under their belt.
It’s not that “Lux” is poorly written either, the song is an interesting toe-tapper that’s catchy and also rhythmically interesting. However, the vocals completely kill the track for me. Bob Nanna’s voice is unnecessarily whiney, and doesn’t fit the major/up-beat drive the song has. And that’s saying a lot coming from a listener who spent his middle school years listening to Fall Out Boy.
The second song on the split “Many Enemies” is far better than the first, as Bob Nanna doesn’t sing on this half of the Braid side. Instead Chris Broach takes the microphone, with a voice way more fitting for the style of music Braid is performing. While Braid is essentially an emo band, it’s the drive and positive feel the instruments create that make Braid a way better home to Chris’ less whiney voice. My favorite part of the song starts at the 1:40 mark, when the band explodes into a quick off-beat guitar grove in which the vocalist leads the band at the top of his voice box with “This is my city!” before moving into drum driven final section of the song featuring a chorus section in the background of the mix.
Balance and Composure’s half is in my opinion, better written and higher quality than Braid’s. Starting with “You Can’t Fix Me,” Balance is quick to establish their familiar ambient grooves, allowing vocalist Jon Simmon’s to use the musical space created to express his vulnerability and intensity. The song ends in a beautifully built up crescendo in which Simmon’s asks “How’d I ever know that the secret is just waking up/How’d I ever know that it’d sleep until I wake it off?”
“Say” closes off the split, and sounds like a track directly off of Balance and Composure’s album Separation. The song starts off with a drum pickup and moves directly into the song where Balance’s 3 guitarists hold the structure. This gives the drummer room to display his skills with well written fills that don’t take away from the vocalist’s melodies and angst either. The song transitions between this section and a power chord driven section, giving the song a ballad like atmosphere in combination with the lyrics. This formula is then used until the final section, where the vocals eerily sing “I’m right where you left me/A million different faces or so/Of course I had a secret/I did my best to keep it all down.”