Context – cheating on my blog’s purpose
I totally listened to Brand New’s Science Fiction twice before writing this. In part because the first listen to was over a game of cribbage at a weird Christian Church camp after our attempts to stay at the Indiana Dunes failed, and in part because I haven’t been this excited about an album maybe ever, but confidently since Run the Jewels dropped RTJ3 early as a Christmas Fucking Miracle. I shouted then got excited then got upset then threw things then rode my bike across the state. That’s how the sheer news of this album made me feel, so I needed to reflect on it.
The other part being Brand New have once again re-defined their sound, although not in as dramatic fashion as they did between Deja Entendou and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. It’s no secret that Devil and God is my favorite album of all time, so to compare Science Fiction to it is not a task I take lightly.
Upon first listen all that stood out to me was how mellow and subdued this album was. Brand New is working with the same sonic pallet they did during Devil and God and Daisy, but this is less hostile than Daisy and less surprising than Devil and God. The overall effect is one that is hard to effectively process with just one listen, as my default response is to dismiss albums that don’t appear to stand out in any way.
I knew that I liked this, but I also knew it demanded more of my attention. So I gave it some more of my attention. And in doing so I can say I like it more than I thought I did after the first listen, which makes me excited about the upcoming third listen (and every subsequent listen after that). It’s this experience, especially combined with the sonic references to Devil and God, that has me really excited about this album’s potential to grow. This was how I grew to love Devil and God–I initially dismissed it as something I liked but couldn’t quite fit into a box, but after every subsequent listen it grew and grew to the point where it’s my default Brand New album.
Now that I think about it, this has been my experience with every Brand New album–I hear it, I kind of like it, but end up going back to it more than other albums from other bands. Except Daisy, that is. I just didn’t go back to it as often. It’s a good album, but when your other albums are between great and stellar, good just isn’t cutting any mustard.
It’s way too early to tell if this album will grow to such heights of Deja or Your Favorite Weapon, though. I think Devil and God is safe on top of the hierarchy. But I am very excited about where this currently sits in my psyche, and glad Brand New is making more music. They’ve been hinting at a 2018 breakup for a few years now, so if this is the note they end on, I’d be ok with it.
And maybe that’s why the album feels so subdued and lacks any of the energy that typically breaks up a Brand New album. There isn’t a “Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” or a “You Won’t Know” or anything else that adds a bit more depth of range to the album, although the album isn’t without it’s noisy moments. Songs like “Can’t Get it Out” and “451” approach this, but don’t let all it all out like I’ve come to expect from Brand New. My main critique of Daisy is this chaotic energy is over-present, with a majority of songs going from whisper quiet to full on distortion and gumption without any warning to your now-bleeding eardrums, and it seems that they got this tendency out of their system.
Which isn’t to say the album is monolithic or too same-y. The aforementioned “451” has a surprising amount of swing in it, and “In The Water” has some delightful harmonics and a drawl about it that’s hard to place in other Brand New songs, but isn’t out of place for them either.
All in all it’s hard to grade this album as I fully expect it grow with each additional play-through. Keep an eye out in future reviews to see if I start talking about this more than Devil and God. But overall very excited about this, and you should be too.