Monday, December 21, 2009

Brand New :: Daisy

Daisy breathes, through the chaos of its construction, a juxtaposing elemental vitality; the coherent whole is built out of contradictory parts. There are some of the catchiest pop tunes the band has ever written, residing in grooves right next to abrasive and psychedelic tracks that will have you likewise yelling along. Sometimes it even happens in the same song. It’s an album of experimentation, something unexpected around the corner of each song’s end. It seems to be working for the band as it’s their highest ranking album, the soft->loud dynamic getting them Radiohead comparisons left and right.

The album cover is by Peter Sutherland and it follows the trend from their last album, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, of deliberately odd and obscure photos. The pictures included in the jacket are a mesh of colors, simple patterns and dark band photos. The vinyl version of the album that saw limited release only on the internet, comes with one additional photo as an insert: a big aqua manatee. The photos serve the same purpose as post-modern paintings, being intentionally misdirecting and ambiguous in order to convey only an emotion with no associations. The small yellow fox on the front somehow is the perfect image to hold hands with the sound of Daisy.

Before the record was released, front-man Jesse Lacey expressed some nervousness about it. He told Kerrang!, "It’s a pretty exhausting record. It’s quite dense... If you play it loud and you make it through six or seven songs you’re gonna be pretty tired.” His reason was, “we were thinking a lot more about what we’d want to play when we were up onstage rather than actually what you’d want to hear on a record." But, this was back when the record was still called and one head can never die… They changed the title back to Daisy when guitarist Vinni Accardi wrote the song of the same title.
Brand New has undergone a journey throughout each of their albums. Their changing sound has caused them to constantly be the victim of scrutinizing fans, but the audible transformation is a tangible representation of the changes within the guys who created it. The first three albums, Your Favourite Weapon, Deja Entendu and The Devil and God form a neat narrative arc of reckless youth, regret and attempts at salvation, respectively. The prospective album was destined to be burdened by the weight of expectations from this progression. Whereas Daisy carries the psychedelic torch from The Devil and God, the album is strikingly reminiscent of their Weapon days. In an interview with Drowned in Sound, Jesse Lacey said, “I think also it's more a digression. We were, I think, returning to a lot of things and ways of playing that we enjoyed when we were younger.”
The album begins with an ancient clip called “On Life’s Highway,” sung by a tremolo infected female vocalist. It’s an unexpected start and supports my Bright Eyes = Brand New thesis, as that’s how Bright Eyes albums always start (see this). The clip comes from a reel of sermons and church songs from an estate in Texas that Jesse bought from an online auction. Vinni told the website This is Fake DIY that the song “just seemed to sort of pop out at us for whatever reason at the time. And listening to it lyrically, we all thought it was beautiful and it seemed interesting to perhaps have that in the record somehow.” Right as the clip mellows out, “Vices” kicks in to startle and disturb you. The song is hands down the most abrasive and energetic song the band has ever written and as such it’s the perfect tune to use as a track with a random song clip in it. The only song that comes close to catching its energy is “Sink.”
The next track that bleeds in presents the juxtaposition to the listener. “Bed” is a calm pop song about flaming sleeping quarters and girlfriends. For a tragic and claustrophobic event as a burning home, it’s startlingly simple and meditative, like Jesse was being cleansed by fire. As with the last album and one of the most reasonless things the band has been doing recently, there aren’t any lyrics in the booklet. There are strong images of elemental destruction, particularly with fire, and a lot of references to forests and beds throughout the album.
“At the Bottom” is perhaps the most personal track penned by Jesse on the album. The Devil and God’s demeanor was greatly influenced by the fact that a lot the band member’s close friends had passed away. This track bears the same sentiments with the line “There’s a lake and at the bottom you’ll find all our friends. They don’t swim because they’re all dead.” The chorus sees the singer burying his friends and even offering to help give them the thing that could’ve been the cause of their destruction. He pleads “I’d serve you drugs on a silver plate if I thought it would help you get away. I hope that you would do this for me.” The song also makes reference to “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” from Deja. In that song, as a pessimistic perspective on adult life and relationships, the lyric “Die young and save yourself!” is passionately screamed out. As a mirror to that lyric, Jesse has now penned “If I wanted to die before I got old I should’ve started some years ago digging that hole.” His attitude towards love and life seems to be the same. In a modern world where Freud’s two primal motivators of sex and death often don’t apply to the common consumer, the song points to two alternative contemporary drives, “Some men die under the mountain just looking for gold, some die looking for a hand to hold.” As such, its one of the most insightful lines on the record.
Daisy is the Brand New album with the most songs written by Vinni, including “Gasoline,” “Bought a Bride” and “Daisy.” Jesse and Vinni’s styles have become so close that it’s hard to tell which songs are by who without checking the personnel sheet (which doesn’t exit). Jesse told Spin, “I was actually surprised at how so much of the music he wrote was parallel to something that I would write. It just reminded me how close we are, and how much we shared in the last 10 years, growing up together, coming into adulthood together, and sharing so many experiences .”
The album is bisected by “Be Gone,” which serves as a perfect, albeit bizarre, intermission. It’s unlike anything else in the Brand New catalog, consisting of acoustic guitar and vocals that fade in and out quickly.
“Daisy” picks up the random clip idea, opening with a Johnny Carson-esque introduction and breaking down after the first verse for a little girl to speak, punctuated by sweet calling birds. The song itself is catchy and sorrowful, the bass trudging along to its strange tempo.
The album ends with the twinkling starlight and grunge of “Noro.” Before the album came out, Jesse made some statements that would cause one to think that Daisy would be Brand New’s last album. He told Kerrang! “I think a lot of the record is about us trying to make decisions about how long the band should go on. When I listened back to it, I realized how many songs are about something coming to a close, or knowing when it's time to put something away and move on.” “Noro” is such an example of that…something…that Jesse wanted to escape from. There’s the line “I want to burn down everything we’ve begun. I want to kill it and eat my young,” the idea perpetuated by the repeated phrase “I’m on my way out.”
Jesse has since confirmed that Daisy is not indeed the band's last effort. He told Drowned in Sound, "I'm never really going to say it's the last Brand New anything ever. I think we're just moving along with this and when we want to do something, we do it and when we don't, we don't. So if five years went by and we haven't done anything, I don't think that would mean we're not going to record a record again." Hopefully the wait won't have to be five years. He did make it sound like the band may have other side projects in mind, "we've got a lot of things lined up that we want to record, so I think that will happen pretty soon."
At the end of "Noro," the feedback of the guitars at the end cuts back into “Oh Life’s Highway,” to politely let it finish.
Track listing: (I found out who wrote the songs for the milisecond the information was on itunes)
1. Vices...........................(Jesse Lacey)
2. Bed.............................(Jesse Lacey)
3. At the Bottom...........(Jesse Lacey)
4. Gasoline.....................(Vinni Accardi)
5. You Stole...................(Jesse Lacey and Vinni Accardi)
6. Be Gone.....................(Vinni Accardi)
7. Sink............................(Jesse Lacey)
8. Bought a Bride.........(Jesse Lacey)
9. Daisy.........................(Vinni Accardi)
10. In a Jar..................(Jesse Lacey and Vinni Accardi)
11. Noro........................(Vinni Accardi)
A little bit after the release of the album, the band revealed that they recorded stripped down studio versions somewhere in Brooklyn of several of the songs from Daisy and The Devil and God. If you bought the album on itunes or through various websites, you received the bonus single, which had the aforementioned version of “At the Bottom.” It twists the listener’s perception of the song and is simultaneously relaxing and haunting. Other versions they recorded in this session (that have surfaced thus far) are “Sowing Season,” “Bed,” “Bought A Bride,” “Daisy” and a peppy version of “Jesus” that has Kevin Devine taking up a lot of vocal work.

Here's the aforementioned Brooklyn Session version of "At the Bottom:"

Mango Nebula favorite from this artist:
Brand New - The Devil and God are Raging Inside ME

// Long Island, NY //
// Released on Interscope, DGC and Procrastinate! Music Traitors //
// September, 2009 //
// Recorded by Mike Sapone //
// Mixed by D. Sardy, "Be Gone" mixed by Mike Sapone //
// Mastered by Emily Lazar //

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