Album Review: Science Fiction by Brand New

As a long time fan of the rock/emo band, Brand New, I was more than ecstatic to find out about the release of their fifth (and most likely final) album, Science Fiction. Even though Brand New released a few singles before the official release of Science Fiction, it would be the band’s first new album in 8 years since Daisy, which was released in 2009.

As Brand New is known for, there was little marketing or press before Science Fiction’s release date, which definitely caught a lot of us off-guard when the album finally came out. But even with their minimalistic approach to marketing, they still managed to reach #1 on Top Album Sales for the week of September 9, 2017 on billboard.com

So, without further ado, here is my track-by-track review of some of my favorite songs from the poignant and solemn, Science Fiction.

1) Lit Me Up 

The song starts off with an eerie vintage recording of a therapy session where a woman retells a dream. It then fades into a minimal instrumental that beautifully highlight’s Jesse Lacey’s vocals and lyrics. Although many of the tracks on this album are vague in their meaning, “Lit Me Up” arguably has a theme of awakening.

To me, “Lit Me Up” tells the story of someone who has become numb to themselves and the world around them, until some sort of catalyst awakens them and reignites their passion for life, or presumably anything else they’ve become dull to.

“Lit Me Up” is a perfect entrance to the album; it sets the tone and beautifully leads into the next track.

2) Can’t Get It Out

“Can’t Get It Out” begins with crisp guitar strums and a more high-paced rhythm, but it’s certainly not more uplifting in terms of lyrical content. Ironically, that seems to be the message of the song.

There’s speculation that the song is about Lacey’s own musical history. Many of his songs aren’t considered to be happy or positive by listeners. And with the lyrics “I’ve got a positive message, sometimes I can’t get it out,” it seems that Lacey (or the song’s subject) struggles with an internal conflict of not being able to effectively communicate their true intentions or emotions.

3) Waste

Moody, heavy, and low can best describe the album’s third track, “Waste.” While it’s not my favorite song off the record, it definitely serves a purpose. It’s almost a paperweight or anchor in between the rock and roll style of “Can’t Get It Out,” and the light and dreamy aura of “Could Never Be Heaven.”

The lyrics are about self-destruction, being at your lowest point, and trying to piece yourself back together again. Lacey sings “And maybe one day, you’ll find your way, to climb on up out of your grave, with the bits of you you managed to save…”

4) Could Never Be Heaven

This might be one of my favorite songs from Science Fiction. It’s melodic, airy, and heavenly to listen to. However, there’s something compelling about Lacey’s voice and the warm harmonies in the song that grips the listener.

“Could Never Be Heaven” is also one of the more difficult songs to decode lyrically. While I’m not certain of what the song is about, there are strong motifs of death, heaven, water, religion, and love.

There’s also a strange vintage recording at the end of the song that discusses what it means to be truly authentic in your individuality, or if the act of trying to be an individual hinders that authenticity. It’s hard to say if this excerpt is connected to “Could Never Be Heaven,” but it sure does add an obscure and thought-provoking impact on the song.

5) Same Logic / Teeth

“Same Logic / Teeth” brings back the loud and emotional side that Brand New is typically known for. The song discusses self-destruction, guilt, self-loathing, and manipulation. Even though the topic’s dark, there’s something in the song that resonates with all of us to some extent.

6) 137

Instrumentally, “137” isn’t very exciting at the beginning. However, the sparse sounds emphasize the lyrics, which are the primary focus of the song. “137” seems to be a portrayal of nuclear war with the lyrics of the first chorus being: “Let’s all go play Nagasaki, we can all get vaporized, hold my hand let’s turn to ash, I’ll see you on the other side.”  

The song also ends with a loud cacophony of sounds which is presumably an audio metaphor for the chaos and distress of a nuclear disaster.

(137 is assumed to be a reference to the radioactive isotope Caesium-137)

 

7) Out of Mana

“Out of Mana” was the first song I heard from Science Fiction, and it definitely ties the most into the album’s title. The guitars on this track are immediately distorted and heavy. This, combined with the catchy chorus and unconventional lyrics had me replaying this song for days.

“Out of Mana” heavily references technology and video games in the lyrics and title. While this might just be the band having fun with obscure topics, I think there might be a deeper meaning that connects overcoming challenges digitally with overcoming challenges in real life. Either way, the song is still a thrill to listen to.

11) 451

3 second into “451” and you’ll surely be nodding your head and tapping your toes along with it. The song is rhythmic, up-beat, and intense. “451”, along with “Could Never Be Heaven” are most likely my top 2 favorites of the album. It’s a perfect song to play in the car with sunglasses on and the windows rolled down.

However, after scouring my mind and the internet, there doesn’t seem to be any clear answer to what the song means. The lyrics “A million suns won’t fill you up if you can’t see the wine flowing over your cup.” discusses being unsatisfied with more than enough, and the title “451” is assumed to be a reference to  Ray Bradbury’s novel Fareinheight 451.

 

 

Interview with Sunsleeper

Following the release of their new EP, Stay the Same, I had the pleasure of sitting down with local emo/rock band, Sunsleeper, to discuss their music, background, and plans for the future.

I met up with Sunsleeper at Kilby Court for their December 17th show. After the band finished up with their soundcheck, we all headed into the green room where I was introduced to the members of the band: Jeff (Guitar and Vocals), Scott (Drums), Eli (Bass), and Thys (Guitar and Backup Vocals).

We started off the conversation by discussing the history of the band and how Sunsleeper formed into what it is today. Jeff began by explaining that before Sunsleeper, all of the members were in various bands around Salt Lake and met up with one another through mutual friends. Strangely enough, before the band had even formed, Scott and Jeff had ended up standing next to each other at a concert without any knowledge that one day they’d be in a band together.

Before the interview, however, I was able to listen to a little bit of their soundcheck and noticed them playing a song from the band, Brand New, an emo/rock band from New York. I then asked the band what some of their musical influences were.

“100% Brand New… Brand New is my biggest influence, [they’re] the reason I started playing music in the first place…,” Jeff explained.

While Sunsleeper is heavily influenced by Brand New, they create a sound that’s unique to them; something that’s genuine and personal. The song “Maple Drive,” especially, is an emotional amalgamation of soft and clean melodies with a gritty chorus and heartfelt lyricism. While listening to their EP, I might’ve shed a tear or two, but I think an album is truly special when it can elicit that much emotion in its listeners.

Apart from their sound, something that truly stood out to me was their album art. The image is a simple flower on top of a light blue background, but the photo is so striking and elegant, and perfectly encompasses the feel of the band. Because album art is such an iconic part of a band’s image, I asked them about their process in choosing the photo. Jeff talked about how one of his close friends Ryan ended up being the photographer for their main album photo:

“He [Ryan] was my best friend growing up… and I randomly went to his company page… and I looked at his header photo…and was like ‘that’s it’…I remember sending it in a group text [to the other band members] and everyone was just like ‘that’s the record cover’… And it’s especially special to me that it was Ryan who took it because he’s basically my brother.”

Lastly, I asked the band if they had any plans for future releases.

“We’re working on some stuff; tentatively want to record sometime next year [2017]. It’s really up in the air, but yeah we probably have 4 or 5 skeletons of songs,” Jeff mentioned.

Thys added: “We are trying to stay as busy as we can, we’ve gotten a lot of traction lately and want to be really action-oriented, so hopefully we can get some music out sooner than later.”

While new music is still in the works, it’s obvious that Sunsleeper is definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future. If you haven’t heard any of Sunsleeper’s music, take a listen the song “Maple Drive” below and definitely check them out on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr!

 

 

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

When it comes to alternative rock music, there are bands that are absolutely quintessential to the genre. These bands dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and helped pave the way on what alt rock should sound like. Even though lately many of them have not been as popular as they once were, there are a select few who prove they are not out of the game, like Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World formed in 1993 in Mesa, Arizona. They had released two albums in the 90’s but didn’t see commercial success until the release of their 2001 album Bleed American. Many notable singles were bred from that album, from the title track to “Sweetness”, but nothing compared to “The Middle.” From there on out, Jimmy Eat World was one of the staple bands of the emo/pop punk scene. They stayed in the limelight for their next two albums Futures and Chase This Light, however, they started to drop off the music scene with Inverted and Damaged. After touring got done for Damaged, the band decided to take a year off for a much needed break.

Integrity Blues is a nice welcome back for Jimmy Eat World after their hiatus. They came back with new ideas and a new approach on how they would develop their songs. The whole theme of this album revolves around acceptance of life and the changes it brings with it. “Pretty Grids” and “Get Right” call upon all the rock lovers with their heavy guitar breakdowns and profound bass lines while “You With Me” and “It Matters” show their capability to embrace a softer side as singer Jim Adkins calmly serenades the listener.

“Sure and Certain” was the first song I heard that notified me that they were making a new album. I remember the first time I heard it I was extremely overjoyed. It was as if the band never took a break to begin with. The opening lively guitar strums combined with the anthem-like drum beats was enough to ensure me that Jimmy Eat World had returned.

While their past two albums were not highly successful, Integrity Blues reminds fans why they fell in love with Jimmy Eat World in the first place. It hits listeners with deep feelings of nostalgia. For me, the album transported me back to the days where I had Futures on repeat. The band was able to create an album that was consistent to how they sound without being repetitive. The long awaited album had finally come and it didn’t disappoint.