It has been 8 years since their last release and the future for them is uncertain but at last Brand New has given us Science Fiction and I couldn’t be more grateful. I occasionally revisit and enjoy the emo hits that soundtracked my High School years, however I will admit very little of it is actually good music. Emo is traditionally seen as nothing more than angsty teen music for good reason, there are very few bands that have stood the test of time or ever bothered to try to be anything else. Just this year New Found Glory released an album that wouldn’t be out of place with what they were releasing over 10 years ago.
Having derived from punk music, the genre doesn’t have to consider quality or art that is part of the appeal. Science Fiction is further evidence Brand New is an exception to that kind of mentality and the best example of how to develop into something better. The ways in which they have evolved their sound since their debut has allowed them to transcend their genre and stand out from the crowd. They have come a long way from the over-compressed garage noise singing break up songs that wish awful things on girls who wronged them.
One thing that has always impressed me and is continued on this album is their ability to find the perfect guitar tones for almost every song they record. I really have no explanation as to how they have managed to keep that trick up this long other than Mike Sapone’s influence. The little-known producer/engineer has worked on everything from video games to tv and movies and was instrumental in defining what bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and A Straylight Run sound like. Even with Sapone’s help throughout their career they should've been off the mark somewhere along the way but have yet to disappoint me in this area. Together with Sapone they always seem to find the right combination of distortion, clean purposeful notes, and haunting acoustic melodies, sometimes all in the same song. The production and mixes have gotten better concurrently with their songwriting and this album is another demonstration of that.
I have heard and can understand the argument that this is an album only Brand New fans can really appreciate because of how much it draws on their past. I have been listening to this release once or twice every couple of days since it came out to digest it properly and after multiple play throughs, I do not agree. Like an iceberg or a tree with an unseen massive network of roots, it is impressive how they've gotten here, but it does not take away from what is in front of you. Having grown up on this band and hearing first hand how they have evolved I am probably too close to make that call but this album is definitely worth your time. From the eerie opening track "Lit Me Up" to the tear inducing "Batter Up" Brand New continues their growth and it is as good as ever.
If mysterious postcards fans received and their most recent tour merch is any indication this may be the end of that. I believe this album is likely the final maturation of their sound, I do not see where they can go from here. This isn’t to say I would be opposed to hearing something new if they were feeling generous enough to give us more but if it is goodbye so be it.
At best this is one of my top 3 albums of the year so far and at worst Brand New made a really good album for all of us emo kids who grew up on bands like them to bookend that time of our lives.
Favorite Track: Could Never Be Heaven