Arriving eight years after their previous album amid massive fan speculation, Brand New finally delivered their long-awaited fifth LP, Science Fiction, in 2017. With numerous band-generated allusions to their impending break-up, the album bears the added weight of being a potential swan song and, if so, it makes for a powerful closing chapter. A lifetime away from the Long Island quartet's emo and pop-punk origins, Science Fiction is a complex and nuanced beast of introspective indie rock and detailed production. At first blush, it's not an easy listen, though it is ultimately a rewarding one. Dotted with lengthy quiet stretches and threaded together with a pastiche of unusual spoken samples and interludes, there's a rather Pink Floydian quality to producer Mike Sapone's approach that gels with some of the darker themes explored within. Opiatic first track "Lit Me Up" drips gently into existence over its six minutes before segueing into album highlight "Can't Get It Out," a masterwork of serpentine guitars and chugging rhythms whose chorus boasts a truly satisfying harmonic payoff. A tonal counterpart with a similarly appealing chorus, "In the Water," appears a little over midway through, acting like a tonic after the spiky alt-rock of "Out of Mana." Thematically anxious, depressed, questioning, and occasionally triumphant, frontman Jesse Lacey offers little in the way of lyrical resolve throughout these 12 songs, choosing instead to part with a sort of muted call to arms on Science Fiction's dreamy eight-minute finale, "Batter Up." As the track slowly winds to its murky conclusion, he quietly intones "It's never going to stop, batter up, give me your best shot, batter up."
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger