Brand New just released their first album in eight years, Science Fiction, via Procrastinate! Music Traitors.
After eight years of studio inactivity sans a few singles, Brand New updated their website on August 15th, allowing fans to pre-order an unnamed fifth album being released and shipped in October. Two days later, the album was available for digital download, free to anyone who pre-ordered.
Brand New is one of those bands that is firmly ingrained in who I am as a person today. Their music has gotten me through some of the worst times of my life, as well as opening up new doors for me in terms of the music I enjoy. Their album The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me remains my favorite record of all time, and Deja Entendu and their last album before this one, Daisy, aren’t too far behind. So I apologize in advance, this isn’t exactly an unbiased review.
Naturally, when the album was announced, I, as many who have followed this band’s last few years, had a degree of skepticism. My first question was, ‘Is this coming out?’ which was quickly answered, and my second was, ‘What will it sound like?’ as there really wasn’t much information surrounding the album and there were no singles. From their pop-punk styled debut, to their emo/indie hybrid they became most known for on Deja and Devil and God, to a more raw, polarizing post-hardcore/indie sound on Daisy, which sounded like a mix of Modest Mouse and Fugazi, they haven’t exactly stuck to a consistent sound throughout their career. The two singles in between Daisy and their new record, which both came out in 2015, were both similar to their sound on Deja, further adding to the confusion.
And, yet again, on this new record, they further expand the boundaries of their sound. This is their most somber and slowest record yet, by far. The majority of the album sounds like a fusion between their mostly-acoustic 2006 leaked demos (that were originally supposed to be on Devil and God) and the slower parts off Daisy. There is more emphasis on atmosphere and texture here instrumentally, and those looking for instant gratification may be disappointed. Most of these songs take time to develop and build up, and some of them are subtle all the way through. The opener “Lit Me Up” sets the tone for the album; a slow, 6 minute dirge that doesn’t necessarily build up to a climax, but instead builds up in a more subtle way that manages to be just as cathartic as their louder, more angry moments.
Now, many bands have attempted to make this stylistic change before, and a lot of the time (at least in my opinion) it comes off as derivative and tame. However, Brand New aren’t just any band and Jesse Lacey is one of the best songwriters of our time. And lyrically, this album might be his most vulnerable and heartfelt yet, which is definitely saying something. The lyrics are sincere, cutting introspections into mental illness, recovery, self-loathing, and the legacy you fear you’re leaving behind. Lacey has delved into these topics before, but not with the level of maturity and polish as he does on this record.
Despite being slower and more subtle than anything they’ve ever done, this also may very well be their most eclectic musically. The song “Same Logic/Teeth” is probably the most visceral and heavy song on the album, as well as the only one to feature screamed vocals. It evokes their Devil and God era sound, as well as early Modest Mouse. “Can’t Get It Out” is probably the only anthemic song, the only obvious single on the record, as well as one of the standouts. Both “Out of Mana” and “451” contain some INCREDIBLE guitar work from Vincent Accardi, who has spent his entire career being underrated, in my opinion, and these two songs are definitive proof of his greatness. The final track, “Batter Up,” is eight minutes long, with the last few minutes delving into an instrumental post-rock crescendo, building up from the haunting first few minutes of the song. If this is truly their final album, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to go out, honestly.
Comparing this to their previous records (especially as to answer the question where this ranks in their discography) is pointless, at least for me. I’m not as young and impressionable and malleable as I was when I first got into this band—I can’t compare a new album to something that has been ingrained in my life like the rest of their music. However, I can say definitively say that this record is a masterpiece; a subtle, dark, haunting swan song of a record, reminding me of final albums by other bands that did a similar thing (was the longest and most eclectic album of their career) such as No Devolution by Thursday and Leaves Turn Inside You by Unwound. If what reads on their merch (2000-2018) proves to be true, this is one hell of a final statement to drop. And if you have the chance to catch this band on tour, do so before they break up because their shows are life changing.
This album reveals itself more with each listen, and is easily my favorite record of the year so far, and that has nothing to do with my personal hype for this album or this band. It’s the best because this is simply 61 minutes of 12 beautiful, masterfully crafted songs by incredible musicians who have pushed themselves yet again creatively, emotionally, and sonically.
Brand New: website