Bleachers - Bleachers

The atmospheric rise of Jack Antonoff continues on the latest full-length record by Bleachers. The same man that kicked his career off with Steel Train, showcased his songwriting prowess with fun., re-established himself as a solo artist with Bleachers, and along the way became a Grammy winning producer, Antonoff is certainly no stranger to the bright lights. The pressure seemed to be on this ultra-talented artist on Bleachers (his first album on Dirty Hit), and yet Antonoff delivers in more ways than one in his most fully realized record to date. With a sound that feels like a modern take on Bruce Springsteen, paired with the atmospheric elements found in the brooding synths of The 1975 and The Midnight, Bleachers does the near-impossible task of paying homage to where he came from while simultaneously moving the needle forward in his artistic growth. Jack Antonoff is a man of many talents, and they are all on full display on the fourth studio album from Bleachers.

The records kicks off with “I Am Right On Time” as Antonoff opens with, “We were just kids / It wasn’t over when it ended / Our ballroom bliss / Counterfeit under extended / I knew your touch / I knew your weather / We were the same, faith is change / Read our doctrine,” all over some cool guitar-laced riffing by none other than Bartees Strange. Bartees Strange also gets some producer credits on this introductory song that perfectly sets the table for everything that comes after.

Lead single, “Modern Girl” explodes out of the gates with a vibrant saxophone sound before Antonoff confidently croons, “Friday night, killer queens / Hop a train, on the scene / All the band, is in the wild / Don’t you dare touch the dial / We dressed up like a heart attack for ya / We dressed up like a heart attack.” The song is rich with Bruce Springsteen vibes paired with that Steel Train charm that made me a fan of Jack Antonoff in the first place. While most of the LP is a bit subdued in its delivery, “Modern Girl” is a burst of sunshine on a cloudy day that is sure to leave you in a better mood after wrapping your ears around it.

The mid-tempo “Jesus Is Dead” relies largely on a great bass line throughout the track, while Antonoff continues to remain captivating in his vocal delivery. However, the album really starts to get into its desired vibe with “Me Before You.” The song is reminiscent of the synth-pop Bruce Springsteen classic, “Secret Garden,” and yet Bleachers would never be satisfied with just simply paying homage to “The Boss.” Instead, they use this stylistic choice to lend a wall of sound that echoes off the speakers with spiraling saxophone notes and intricate guitar parts. The exploratory sound continues on “Alma Matter” that has Antonoff remembering, “2003, sad all the time / Point the headlights, flicker dear / Drive by the old house, go for a beer / We’re on the green or the movie theater / You’re a movie to me, the way you move around me,” while delivering the pre-chorus in a crisp falsetto. What the band does best on this trio of songs is cement themselves into going towards a clear direction for the rest of the record in a logical way.

”Tiny Moves” is a synth-driven song that relies on Antonoff’s charm as he sings confidently on the second verse of, “Call it American football chic / Breaking your neck for no reason / The little brush right down the avenue / A tiny twist of faith will come and shake you / You can believe.” The storytelling in Antonoff’s lyrics remains top notch and brings the audience in to connecting with the material. “Isimo” features a brilliant, well-constructed chorus as Antonoff triumphantly declares, “But you were just a kid when they told you / You’d been born to bleed, little soldier / With your magnet heart and sentimental boulder / Oh, it pulled you down / But look at you you made it out.” It’s truly a marvel to watch his confidence swoon on songs like these that continue his ascent as an artist.

”Woke Up Today” is an acoustic-guitar based song that unfolds with great elements to it, like picturesque harmonies from his bandmates, and Antonoff adds parts to the track like a chef adding ingredients to a recipe. The second verse of, “Woke up today and I was right / My winning ticket in her eyes / How does it feel to get what you need? / It’s a strange kind of rush / ‘Cause every breath I breathe of the past / Is holy surreal and it’s hard to hold on / Oh God, it’s always on my mind / My loss is always on my mind,” features great lyrical wordplay and is delivered crisply. If the aforementioned track is a ballad of retrospect, then “Self Respect” is Bleachers is fully realizing their vision in their music. I absolutely loved the lyrics of, “I’m on my hands and knees begging you to kiss me / When I’m not around, do you even miss me? / I’m so tired of having self-respect / Let’s do something I’ll regret,” since it encapsulates the feeling of falling head over heels in love with the person you want to spend all your days with.

”Hey Joe” is the only song on Bleachers that I didn’t immediately love, but on repeat spins I can see why the song does its job of breaking up some of the similar sounding tracks. Things continue down a logical path with “Call Me After Midnight,” a song that highlights Antonoff’s impressive vocal range, as he goes from a falsetto to a croon with ease. “We’re Gonna Know Each Other Forever” is a dreamy ballad about recalling the memories we make with the people we love the most, while “Ordinary Heaven” might just be the marquee song on this record altogether. The heavy synths that drip off of the penultimate track here, while Antonoff explores with singing through a vocoder at times, features lyrics like: “Ordinary people / Don’t lose track like this / To have it all without a witness / Yeah, I only want a witness / Ordinary people / Don’t lose track like this / To have it all without a witness.” The plethora of sounds brought forth on songs like this demand to be heard with good headphones to fully grasp everything that is taking place here.

Album closer, “The Waiter” is a solid way to close out this latest, brilliant chapter in Bleachers’ self-discovery. The closing lyrics of “But, oh, when has the world ever, when has the world ever seen you / For what you give? / You’ve seen too much,” leave the listener pondering the future, yet offer an odd sense of comfort as Antonoff’s vocal delivery brings closure to the words. And for those of you on the fence about purchasing the vinyl version of Bleachers to hear the four bonus tracks, you can buy with confidence knowing that these exclusives are rich with everything you’ve come to love from the mind of Jack Antonoff. “I Am In Your Hands” does a nice job of fitting right back into the core of the record, while “The Backwards Heart” and “Question Mark” will solidify your opinion that Bleachers were on top of their game here. “The Big Bad Turnpike Ghost” also offers a charming nod back to the beginning days of Steel Train, and allows Jack Antonoff his full-circle moment of clarity.

Bleachers is a stunning exploration of the human element of music, and plays out like an album that you feel like you’ve lived with forever. It’s got an immediate, warm charm to it and is Bleachers best work to date in a fully-realized collection of songs that mesh well into a full picture. While it may be a little early to declare this as the album of the year, it’s certainly going to be in the running for me, and I plan to revisit the record as often as possible.