When I discovered that two of my favourite bands, Balance & Composure and Tigers Jaw, had done a self-titled EP split back in 2010, I was excited to say the least. Both bands are huge names in the emo alternative/post hardcore scenes (with B&C racking up over 110,000 Facebook likes and Tigers Jaw a respectable 89,000+), so it was a promising release by Run For Cover Records (an equally respected name in the scene) from the outset. If you’ve never heard of either of these bands, this split is a good place to start!
“Kaleidoscope”: The EP opens with Balance and Composure and their instantly recognisable muddy sound. You are guided into the song by the rhythmic and easy drumming and are then, awoken nearly, by the guitar and the beautiful vocals of Simmons. The guitar work is harsh and loud, but it’s so oddly soothing. The lyrics are heart-wrenching, as per usual of Balance and Composure; “And I’m sick of looking back at all the chances I once had / To see for the first time”, which makes the song even more gripping. Simmons shows off the harshness to his voice near the end of the song, which is almost immediately followed by a gentle instrumental exit to the song. Balance and Composure are a band that perfectly capture songs that you just want to lie on your bedroom floor and listen to, silently sulking at something; and “Kaleidoscope” is no different. It’s simply wonderful.
“Burdens”: The next Balance and Composure song on the split is just as awe-inspiring as the previous. B&C have a habit of opening a song very softly and building it up, adding instruments; while still maintaining the initial softness. After the first verse, there is a kind of breakdown. The guitar vibrato in between drum breaks is honestly breathtaking; the whole thing is so complimentary of each and every aspect the band have included in the 5 minute song. Again, the lyrics are somewhat hard hitting – “If I could say that love is what makes us aim to kill / Then I’d aim it towards the sky / ‘Cause we don’t know why or what can make us feel” – which only adds to the experience. Quite like “Kaleidoscope”, “Burden” has a calming instrumental element to it, which I think Balance and Composure have completely mastered.
“Twenty Four”: This is one of my favourite songs by Balance and Composure; and not just from this EP. There is a kind of lonely innocence with the opening lyrics (“I was watching October sky in mid-July when I lost my self-control / It’s kind of funny how time goes by and we wonder why / And where the f*** did it go?” which is mirrored by the lone, distorted guitar strums. The music is stripped back almost entirely after the initial burst, and the sound that emerges is practically inexplicable. It’s that feeling when you’re just tired, or drunk, or sad and things are moving in slow motion around you, but you’re perfectly content. The bass riff and Simmons voice really gives a strange vibe to the track, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. The lyrics of this song are stunning, it’s so hard to pick a few out. The lines “Look around / Up and down / How can you see hope in anything? / I see nothing”, are stand out ones to me, mostly because the delivery of the lines is amazing each time. Simmons raw vocals work incredibly well in this song and it’s one you cannot miss out on hearing. Ever.
“Rope”: This is a heavier B&C song, which is a great overall showcase of what this band can really do. The first verses and chorus are so easy to listen to, you don’t even realise that you’ve listened to them in their entirety. After the brutality of the first two minutes, you are treated to yet another instrumental masterpiece of a breakdown that is so insanely soothing, you could just fall asleep on the spot. It’s true talent to ebb and flow in and out of harsh and soft music so flawlessly (and to do it almost unnoticed is even more impressive) as well as this band does it. Every song Balance and Composure have made for this split really shows off everything these boys can do; and I don’t think any other band can do what Balance and Composure do.
“Lodging”: Tigers Jaw’s first appearance on this split comes via the belter of a tune “Lodging”. Like Balance and Composure, Tigers Jaw focus on guitar riffs that you can’t help but tap your feet or nod your head along to on this track. This band have become synonymous with melodic music coupled with emotionally powerful lyrics, and for a good reason. I have found Tigers Jaw’s lyrics to be quite subtle in meaning sometimes, like a good piece of poetry; it’s really hard to tell what the meaning behind it is, but one you’ve experienced something similar to the subject, its hard to ignore. “Lodging” is a fine example of a great Tigers Jaw song, with hard drums, uplifting guitar, cryptic lyrics and lazy vocals.
“Jet Alone”: This song is marvellous. There is literally only 4 lines of lyrics – “I wanna walk all over you like a floorboard / I wanna lie like a politician / I wanna do those things your friends do / I wanna be just like them” – but they still manage to tell a relatable story. The vocals are vulnerable which simply echos what lyrics have been provided and it’s just such a clever piece of music. It gives off an air of immaturity, anger, jealousy and general angst, all in four lines of lyrics?! “Jet Alone” is one of my favourite Tigers Jaw songs and you should listen to it right away, if you haven’t already.
“Danielson”: While the band have showcased their emo/indie roots with the previous songs on the split, this particular track really documents their emo/punk influences. Every Tigers Jaw song I have had the pleasure of listening to is made so particularly – each individual instrument blends together wonderfully and it works irresistibly with the vocals of Adam McIlwee. I think that the bass riffs in Tigers Jaw songs should be concentrated on more, as they really capture the essence of a lot of the songs in my opinion – particularly this one. While the actual meaning behind this song is blurry to me, it’s still a highly enjoyable song which could easily be listened to in almost any mood.
“Dent”: Like Balance and Composure, Tigers Jaw have taken the opportunity to display their total range of talent on this EP, and “Dent” shows that the band can create a heavier sound. This song is one of hurt and bitterness that would definitely be enjoyed by Tigers Jaw’s following. Again, the band have used minimal lyrics, 7 lines this time, for maximum impact and it’s truly inspiring to listen to, as well as to simply read. The breakdown of the song is a highlight for me; the consistent guitar coupled with the seemingly complex bass riff and the insistent repetitiveness of the drums is utter paradise. The song ends with a chorus of “You swore that everything was fine”, ending the 2 and a half minutes with an air of desperation and disbelief that was underlying throughout the song.
This EP is a great intro to the emo alternative/indie rock genres. These bands are a highlight of all of these genres and will get you hooked on a kind of music that is so expressive and comforting. You won’t find anything like it; I certainly haven’t. Both of these bands have made wonderful songs that work inconceivably well together and apart; it’s a must hear in every way imaginable.