After dedicating myself to a few dates of the upcoming Balance And Composure tour, I decided it was time to return to Light We Made. It was an album I found perfect for sedate late night drives and focused writing sessions when I was sixteen and just getting into the band. It was an unlikely transition — 2011’s Separation and 2013’s The Things We Think We’re Missing served as the driving forces for most of their fans’ passion, except me. Light We Made is definitely not what they’re known for and I was transfixed on their other albums later on, but it entranced me in a completely different way that was just as strong.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Simmons may be famous for his bellowing vocals, but Light We Made proves he has more to offer. His voice first emerges on “Midnight Zone” high-pitched and romantic, singing, “In the ocean we can barely float / In the ocean further down we go / I don’t want to know your motive.” This is not completely different from Balance’s past turmoils — it is only less urgent. This new approach reverberates with ambient instrumentals, synths, autotune, and relaxed vocals.
Balance manages to make this transformation feel seamless and organic — even if bothered fans label it ‘experimental,’ the band knows what they’re doing. From floating in “Midnight Zone” to levitating in “Spinning,” an alluring world is being suspended in midair and there is nothing to do but get swallowed by it. It’s seductive, especially in “For A Walk,” a song about sexual indulgence and liberation, and it’s thoughtful, dissecting a love in “Is It So Much To Adore?”
Every idea is glazed over with this layer of dreamy language like an abstract painting, which makes the pink, loosely-drawn face on the album art so fitting. “Inside a moment. Inside it’s over elevated, so serene,” sings Simmons on “Is It So Much To Adore?” painting this idyllic moment that this album seems to dwell on, attempting to elongate it, or even make it last forever. Light We Made is an extended snapshot of the picturesque memory often reflected on and longed for — under this all-encompassing sedate influence, almost half-conscious and surrendering oneself to a lover. “Said we’re looking at the stars / We’re floating into empty spaces, I know,” Simmons lulls, transcending the atmosphere and immersing in the night sky at once.
More tangible and unexpected concepts appear in latter tracks “Call It Losing Touch” and “Fame,” in which Simmons addresses the flimsiness of his status. “Try to take it from me, this is my throne / Is it fleeting?” and he brings in images of a kingdom, reign, and control — he’s serious about this hyperbolic empire. What he builds up he eventually relinquishes on his own, singing, “Letting go of what I held close / Stepping down I lost it a little / Fame is in the way of all growth / They all say I lost it a little,” and choosing to follow his path rather than the path of expectations. The following track “Fame” is only an extension of his decision, singing “Fame is all we need / Facing the unknown, vain and swayed by greed,” with disdain and disappointment. Even if it is alluring and almost irresistible, fame is ultimately driven by vanity and greed, which, ideally, should have no place in art. He is lucid about his stance on his situation, claiming, “We’re killing ourselves for the wrong intentions.”
Light We Made is ultimately his resistance against this inclination to create expected material in exchange for maintaining power — a protest against forced, dishonest art by setting forth sincere art crafted with the right intentions. The album may not have been what we expected, but that is part of what is so illuminating and captivating about it.