Plenty of festivals claim idiosyncrasy and don’t offer it at all. At Shadow Of The City, you truly feel like you’re at one guy’s event, from seeing his family mill around the festival grounds to those grounds’ intentional proximity to Jersey lore. (Throughout the day, you can escape the sun by going inside the Stone Pony and chilling at its dive bar corner or squinting up at the guitars lining the wall from past performers.) Antonoff’s drawing on experience here, not just from a youth spent in Jersey but from years of the touring grind and playing festivals. There’s an over-saturation in that world, a sameness. And though Shadow Of The City isn’t intended to grow beyond its specific boundaries, to some extent it feels like an antidote to all the rest of it. “The whole point was, what are other festivals doing and let’s do the opposite,” he explains.
One of my favorite musical memories was a moment of serendipitous timing outside a record store in Florence, Italy. We found this store almost as an afterthought, popping our heads in at the end of a long day of traveling. But as we left the store, we saw a man busking across the street, singing “Sex On Fire” by Kings Of Leon at the top of his lungs. And I’ll never forget watching this man, singing the lyrics in both English and Italian, crooning “This man is on fire” to a person passing by on a bike. As I watched the assembled crowd start to sing along, again in a mix of languages, I was struck by how a deliberately audacious, silly slice of pop-rock bliss had transcended cultures and boundaries.
All this is to say that when I heard the saxophone on “Everybody Lost Somebody,” made to sound not dissimilar from the street busker I saw in Florence, I knew that Jack Antonoff has had experiences like that. Experiences that made you become not just a spectator in the world around you, but a participant, connected with others. And he realizes that so many of these moments and connections are made through our most universal of languages: music. In many ways, that is what Gone Now, the sophomore record of Jack Antonoff’s project Bleachers, seems to be about: living presently and openly engaging and trying to connect with the people around you.
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.
But his aversion wasn’t to stardom, or even the burden of a megahit, which he still openly chases as a go-to producer and songwriter for those on the pop A-list, like Lorde and Taylor Swift. The problem was that Fun. was merely something Mr. Antonoff was a part of, he explained recently at his home studio in Brooklyn; he needed the music he made to be a part of him.