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Brand New experiments with grunge and alt rock for stellar “Daisy”

Ryan Raffin | Wednesday, October 28, 2009

“Daisy,” Brand New’s fourth album, and second for Interscope, both kicks off and finishes with a sample of the Gospel hymn “On Life’s Highway.” Clearly, this is not the same band who once upon a time recorded “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” or “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.”

In fact, every new album has come with a drastic change in sound, increased critical acclaim, and fans left scrambling to catch up with the band’s newest stylistic leap. So after the 2006 release of their dark, dense “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” — hailed by many as their greatest achievement to date – what would they do for the follow up? What new curveballs would lead singer Jesse Lacey, lead guitarist Vin Accardi and company throw?

Well, three years later, the band presented its answer. “Daisy” may not reach the heights that its predecessor did, but it is nonetheless an excellent album. Perhaps even more challenging with its genre experimentation, it also features some of the bluntest lyrics of Lacey and Accardi’s careers. “At the Bottom” meditates on mortality while nodding towards the sound of Modest Mouse, and it’s a fantastic choice for a first single, showcasing the band’s evolved sound.

Just how different do they sound? Well, calling them an emo band isn’t even close to accurate anymore — not when they’re incorporating grunge and alternative rock influences throughout the entire album. Opener “Vices” is easily the loudest, most aggressive thing the band has done, which quickly segues into the restrained “Bed.”

The real surprise comes when “Sink” first plays. An unapologetic grunge throwback, it’s sure to have many listeners wondering why a Nirvana song was included on the album. Repeated listens tell a different tale. The song fits in extremely well with the others, the shouted chorus of “You wanna sink / So I’m gonna let you!” a perfect lyrical counterpoint to the album’s sonic cycle of building tension and fiery release.

The album’s tendency to explode into distorted guitar and shouted vocals at any time is a considerable asset: It’s a formula that’s been working well since the Pixies’ heyday. Quiet and loud contrasted together — it’s always been a factor in Brand New’s music, but never quite so much as here.

Vin Accardi took on a more prominent role during the writing of “Daisy,” and it shows. His songs on prior albums were always a little louder, a little more direct, so his larger influence on the new album makes sense when listening to it. Even the songs Lacey wrote alone — like “Vices” and “Sink” — seem to bear Accardi’s influence. Another of Lacey’s songs, “Bought a Bride,” is the album’s standout track. Dealing frankly with his broken engagement to Sherri Dupree of the band Eisley, the song perfectly encapsulates the strengths of “Daisy.” Quiet verses, loud choruses — it’s basically a CliffsNotes for the album as a whole.

The album closes with the triad of “Daisy,” “In a Jar” and “Noro,” a more subdued set. The denouement to the climax of “Sink” and “Bought a Bride,” the last phrase sung on the album is the repeated refrain of “I’m on my way to hell” — a downer, but not a surprising one. The lyrical bleakness of the album is a continuation of what was seen on “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” — if anything, this album is even darker. The songs on “Daisy” never quite reaches the brilliance of songs like “Jesus” or “Sowing Season,” but they all come relatively close. Although it may not be the better album overall, it is still an excellent addition to an already stellar back catalogue and certainly one of the year’s best albums.