Brandon Sloter/Courtesy of the artist
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, the Long Island rock outfit Brand New announced a nameless new release via Twitter, a limited vinyl edition that sold out in minutes. Two days later, news broke that the 500 diehards who’d pre-ordered LPs had been mailed an early surprise: a mysterious CD with a single 61-minute track, indicating that whatever this was meant to be heard in its entirety. The band’s own label, Procrastinate! Music Traitors, posted it for sale shortly thereafter, and by that Saturday it was on streaming services, but the mystery of it all still seemed to leave fans breathless. When magic is done right, wonder outweighs the desire to know how it all works.
Science Fiction is Brand New’s fifth album, its first in eight years — and, if you believe the rumors that it plans to retire in 2018, possibly its last. In its time away, the group has been playing sleight-of-hand tricks with its own career: touring sparingly, releasing the occasional single, stimulating speculation about when it might return to the studio or break up for good. Characteristically, the road to the new music was winding, purposefully and meticulously skewed with the confidence that fans would follow it anyway. There are other survivors in Brand New’s cohort of 2000s, Northeast-bred indie-emo, but few have a mythos as inscrutable or durable, commanding attention through years of inactivity.
It’s easy to forget, after an eight-year absence, that before it came eight years of remarkable consistency. Brand New first found fame with its 2001 debut, Your Favorite Weapon, an emo record whose most memorable moment is its hit, “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad,” a career-making single about adolescent insecurity and unrequited infatuation. 2003’s Deja Entendu continued in that vein, balancing its…