This first impression was originally posted as a live blog for supporters in our forums on May 28th, 2017. First impressions are meant to be quick, fun, initial impressions on an album or release as I listen to it for the first time. It’s a running commentary written while listening to an album — not a review. More like a diary of thoughts. This post has been lightly edited for structure and flow.
I hope everyone is having a nice Memorial weekend, or at the very least is staying cool and relaxing just a little bit. It’s been a pretty nice one here so far — quite hot. I’m currently downing a big glass of water. I got a bit of work done and spent a lot of today being super lazy and reading Batman comics and napping. Can’t complain much about that kinda day.
So, as the sun starts to sort of set over here, I thought this would be the perfect time to do a first listen live blog for the new album from Bleachers. I’ve been looking forward to this from the moment I first heard this album, because it just feels like the kinda album that we’re all going to be talking about for a good part of the year and we’re going to be deconstructing and coming back to for years to come. It’s quite good and it definitely lived up to my lofty expectations. It’s a pop album with heart, smarts, and panache.
I’ve been a big fan of Jack’s music since the first time Richard and Stephanie from Drive-Thru Records sent me early Steel Train demos. I think Steel Train remain one of the most under-appreciated bands out there, it’s almost shocking to me how well those albums stand up. But I think that’s almost a hallmark of Jack’s Antonoff’s music now … it feels perfectly timeless. It feels fresh and relevant today, but there’s a hint of flavor in it that calls back memories of bands from decades past, and it leaves a taste that you know you’ll be returning to for years to come. Not many artists can capture that feeling.
I think I’ve spun this album around 10-12 times so far and I’m still finding new things in it each time, new callbacks, something different under the surface, and it feels like the kinda album that will continue to grow and expand with me throughout the rest of the year. I just know my thoughts will change as I find new flourishes and intricacies with subsequent listens. It’s an album that already feels destined to compete for the top spot on this year’s EOTY list. If I end up coming back to it as much as I have Strange Desire over the past few years … it’ll be hard to keep out of the top spot.
Tonight’s drink of choice is a chilled rose wine. With this heat something cool and light just felt better than a beer. Haha, I think this may be the first album paired with a wine.
As always, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, this isn’t really a review as much as it is just me listening to the album, writing some thoughts down, and speaking off the cuff about what I like, don’t like, and the over all impression the album gives me.
Feel free to jump in either nor or later with questions or anything you’d like to know more on, I can always expand and offer more thoughts and such.
Dream of Mickey Mantle
6:59pmThe album opens similar to Strange Desire, with a sampling of voices and repeated phrases.
“Woke up I’m in the in-between honey”
“I wanna be grateful.”
And then it kicks in with a little beat and Jack sing-talking: ” all the hope i had when i was young, i hope i wasn’t wrong…”
And we’re off …
7:02pmThis song acts pretty much as an intro. The last minute are basically a repeated refrain over percussion and layered instruments. A bunch of crashing voices all harmonizing and fighting for attention at once. It’s a nice way to set up the album and it starts laying down a few themes early.
Home. Lost youth. Rolling thunder. The neighborhood. New York.
7:04pmWe get a little outro from track one, and then we’re right back in with keys and samples. The track opening with the same line as was used in the first song …
woke up i’m in the in between honey
one foot out and i know the weight is coming
because i left it by the bed last night
7:06pmThis song has an albums Steel Train vibe to me. With the bouncy keys, and Jack almost speak talking through the verses and then fucking around with the chorus to make it almost intentionally off. That he starts with this on the album I find fascinating. It’s not that it’s not catchy, it is … but in a different way than one would expect. Instead of coming out of the gate with a huge pop song, we dance in with something more akin to Sgt. Peppers. Subverting expectations.
I love how strained his vocals are on on the chorus, which pans in stereo across the headphones:
good morning to the cops
good morning to my upstairs neighbor
and to the kids at 42
anyone who lent me a favor
7:07pmNice little brass build.
Hate That You Know Me
7:11pmBabies are crying … into the song that anyone else probably would have opened the album with. Nice little electronic beat, catchy as hell … and huge sounding.
Love this line:
so i keep talking bout 18
‘cause i can’t let go of the same dream
rubber band my past tight
7:13pmAnd the way he sings: “pressure points they pressure you right back.”
7:14pmI think the strength of this album lies in how much is going on in a song with it still being recognizable and accessible. There’s all kinds of layers here, weird little beats, added flourishes, layered vocals, and yet it works. That’s usually a recipe for disaster.
Don’t Take the Money
7:16pmThis song is just ridiculous. It’s so good. I think that it may feel the most like Strange Desire, it’s a good bridge at least between that album and this one. It’s one of my favorite pop-songs of the year so far, and I think I’ve played it more than almost any other song this year. That chorus is just stupid good.
7:17pmStill love this song every time I hear it, still not sick of it after all these months.
Everybody Lost Somebody
7:18pmI’m curious where these vocal samples come from of people talking that he inter-splices into the songs.
Haha, gotta love the nice little sax here.
come on motherfucker you survived
you gotta give yourself a break
but there’s nothing i wouldn’t do to settle up with heaven
that’s a debt i gotta settle in heaven
7:20pmThis is one of those albums that I find myself thinking about how the songs wound soundtrack different movies. I can almost see movie scenes I’ve never seen with these songs playing behind them. It’s weird, but the music is so visceral and satisfying.
All My Heroes
7:25pmThe opening little beat on this one is groovy as fuck.
7:26pmThe vocals come in only on the left channel, they’re a little strained, slightly sung slightly poured out. Sung, soft.
7:28pmThere’s a little acoustic strum into the chorus, where it fills out the entire spectrum and we get this little chant:
all the nights i don’t remember
are the ones i can’t forget
when all your heroes get tired
i’ll be something better yet
Love the little percussion hit out of the chorus. More hushed vocals. And then the next verse doubles up the vocals, similar to the first verse in one channel, deeper Jack voice in the right. The production and everything going on here I don’t know how it works. It’s layered, it’s full, and it’s so damn good.
Let’s Get Married
7:30pmNice little 80’s sounding backbeat. This feels pulled out of something like The Breakfast Club.
This verse structure reminds me of Steel Train. Especially later ST.
so i’m gonna get right for you honey
i’ll take all of my medicine and spend you all my money
and i know it’s hard enough to love me
but woke up in a safe house singing honey
7:32pmSomeone’s definitely proposing to this song this year.
7:37pmThis song was an instant favorite for me. It almost acts like an intermission, it’s only four lines, repeated (and then pulling in lines from the rest of the album and some other sampled conversations) … with this sidewalk R&B-ish sound that is both ridiculously catchy, and instantly humble. I’m not sure who is doing the main vocals on this track, it doesn’t sound like Jack to me … but these three minutes, using basically only four lines of lyrics is ridiculously good. Keys, brass, synth …. hand claps … sometimes I think this is just showing off.
goodbye to the friends i had
goodbye to my upstairs neighbor
goodbye to the kids downstairs and
anybody who lent me favor
I Miss Those Days
7:37pmI love how this song also almost feels like it has Steel Train vibes to it too, but with a Bleachers spin.
I think one of the things I like most about Jack’s writing is how many different ways he finds to use a vocal melody. Where he’ll speed things up, repeat, and then find a more conventional rhythm.
7:39pmThat little synth line at the two minute mark. So nostalgic, so great.
Nothing is U
7:43pmThis is a slower one. A nice little piano ballad start, Jack in his lower register:
she puts on a black dress
i clean my glasses and phone
frankie says it’s worthless
to stop and build a home
7:44pmI love the little vocal reverb in the background here.
7:45pmA nice little love song. Synth comes in.
Love how this keeps building. Adding more, and more … and more …
will it feel like thunder
when the long drives over
i will walk through silence with you
I’m Ready to Move on/Mickey Mantle Reprise
7:48pmThis song feels like something pulled from another time but with a modern spin on it. Like someone used a time machine to go back to the ’60’s and record a song, pulled in some shit no one heard before, and was like: look I’m amazing.
these nights are never the same
i’m at the bus stop alone but it never came
waiting on the side of the road tonight
stars are out and she’s burning brighter
7:50pmAbout a minute and a half in we start getting callbacks to earlier songs:
had cursed my bedroom….
goodbye to the friends i’ve had
goodbye to my upstairs neighbor
goodbye to the dream downstairs
7:51pmI love these huge swells in the sound, with a bunch of those sampled vocals and conversations coming back in …
7:52pmUnique song, but a great song.
7:54pmI’m not sure if this is Jack either, on the vocals, but they’re pulled through some kind of pitch correction, dipping and swerving in a variety of ways.
7:55pmAutotune over brass. Not something I would have expected. Wish Hannah was here to tell me exactly what instrument that is, I should be able to pull it out better …
7:58pmI love how much they can pack into a song without it sounding like it’s too much. Without it being too convoluted. It all feels so purposeful and placed.
goodbye to the friends i had
goodbye to my upstairs neighbor
goodbye to the dream downstairs and
anybody who lent me a favor
7:58pmEnding the album with the line, “i loved you all” is pretty awesome.
8:05pmI find this entire album utterly fascinating. It’s an entire dance in duality: Unique and familiar, catchy and off-putting, throwback old and entirely new. It plays with expectations and takes you in completely different directions. Each song feels part of the whole, built one block on top of the other until you see the entire picture only after you step back.
I find it completely enthralling. I love it.
I’ve spent the past few nights sitting out in the heat with this album on repeat. The sun soaked cement still radiating from the afternoon, the music leaving an echo on my eardrums while I watch the streetlights flick on. It’s the kind of album that I feel familiar with already, and feel drawn to. An album where a summer of memories already feel imprinted upon the notes, just begging for me to reach up and pull them down.
I love the way music can make you feel things like that. How it can grab you and play with your emotions, your memories, and your senses. That’s what the best do. That’s what I think this one does.
Anyway, thanks all for reading! I hope your Memorial Day holiday tomorrow is a great one. I’ll be updating the site with some news, but we’ll be on a more “relaxed” posting schedule for the day off. If you have any questions about this album now I’ll answer them in full … since the embargo is now up!