Every time Brand New makes an announcement, whether it’s an upcoming tour or a new single, their fanbase goes bananas. The more their catalogue ages and their mystique increases, the greater the hype that surrounds whatever they’re up to next. Of course, when they released their second single in a little over a year, thoughts of a fifth full-length emerged, and only time will tell when it will actually happen. The members have families to tend to, understandably putting Brand New on the back burner. A decade past their gloomiest, most cavernous record, The Devil & God Are Raging Inside Me, it’s obvious they’re in a far different place, and it’s especially apparent in the new single. “I Am a Nightmare” is a straightforward punch to the gut, as it contains less musical layers but still maintains the lyrical depth for which the band’s always been known.
The track opens up with a bouncy riff, similar to much of the group’s early material but with a modern alt-rock flair similar to that of Interpol. The pace is a fast one, rummaging through a wave of opening notes and into tight verses, all leading up to a large, ultra-catchy chorus. Brand New’s written memorable choruses in the past, and their knack for standout sing-alongs is quite evident in this track. The line “I am a nightmare and you are a miracle” sticks, all thanks to Jesse Lacey’s mid-range vocals and juxtaposed wordplay. Lacey knows how to utilize his voice to the fullest, never going too far out of his comfort zone while still managing to maximize his potential as a singer. Such tendencies make him perfect for this kind of track, a level rocker with tons of energy. Longtime producer of the band’s material, Mike Sapone adds his own crafty touches. Though there isn’t as much to grasp instrumentally, Sapone’s light layering of vocals allows them fit snugly in front of punctual, feedback-ridden guitars.
If such musical execution is vintage Brand New, then the lyricism isn’t too far off either. Cryptic as usual, with lines about throwing up snakes and hearts glowing fluorescent, the main difference in this track is its succinct style. Not only does this include a repetitive chorus that easily gets ingrained in listeners’ heads, but also an internal rhyming scheme in the verses that gives off a clever, spirited vibe. This is all on top of a song that already feels dreamy in form. It moves away from the dense darkness that coated their mid-2000s material and captures a range of emotions to match its upbeat sonic tendencies. Adding to the tone is a variety of references, from a bible quote to a possible throwback to “Play Crack the Sky” in its “lost at sea” metaphor. Since there’s not a lot to the song’s makeup, the lyrics give it some much-needed tangibility.
Though there have been statements that both this song and 2015’s “Mene” will make it on the band’s next record, it’s still unsure when it will arrive. With how little Brand New has been active this decade, listeners shouldn’t take singles like “I Am a Nightmare” for granted. They should rather be seen as a gift, and hopefully a taste of things to come as well. The new single may not have the same impact as material off the group’s last three albums, but it does signify a new era of Brand New — one that’s a bit more emotionally stable and a bit less complex, but one that’s sure to satisfy just the same.
Emo/Rock | Procrastinate! Music Traitors