Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Northern Michigan tends to be famous for its brutal winters, but come around here in the summer and you might just see some shit. And by “some shit,” I mean blisteringly hot and oppressively humid days where there’s not a cloud in the sky to shield you from the unrelenting sun. Such were the conditions the first time I ever heard Handwritten.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fourth full-length album leaked to the internet on the hottest day of the hottest summer I can remember in my hometown. I recall that because my parents had no air conditioning when I was growing up, which meant their house could turn into a downright sweatbox on days like this one. My shitty 10-pound college laptop tended to overheat real fast on the hot days, which made it hard to do work, or download music, or talk about that music with your fellow fanatics on So when Handwritten hit the web, I downloaded it quickly to my iPod and then just as quickly left the house for a beach three miles down the road.

My first listens of Handwritten were spent sitting at a picnic table less than 50 feet from Lake Michigan as evening settled in and a red-hot July sun sunk mercifully beyond the horizon. Every four or five songs I paused to plunge myself into the waves and cool myself off from the radiant heat that was still lingering thanks to sunbaked concrete and white-hot sand. By the time the album spun around to its last two tracks, a pair of glorious evening beauties called “Mae” and “National Anthem,” the temperature in the air was finally dissipating and a nighttime chill was creeping into the breeze. Somehow, a sweltering day had morphed into an unspeakably gorgeous summer night, and I got to experience it while watching the sunset over the water and waiting for kingdom come with the radio on.

I can’t recall many more idyllic first listens to an album than that one, and it’s still the first thing that pops into my mind whenever I hear Handwritten. “I’m in love with the way you’re in love with the night,” Brian Fallon sings on the title track. I always loved that line and how much it said without saying very much it all. It’s a lyric that conveys romance, and possibility, and youthful abandon, and all the magic a night can hold when you’re young and you’re up for anything. Hearing it for the first time on the cusp of a night just like the one described in the song, in the grips of full summer glory, was perfect. So was the album.

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Brian Fallon Explains Why The Gaslight Anthem Have Reunited


Well, I think it’s two sides that have always been there. Even on like the early, early records, like Sink Or Swim, you have “The Navesink Banks” and “Red At Night” that are more Americana. But I know that when I finished doing Local Honey, there was very strong sense of completion. When that record was done, I felt I had achieved something, whatever it was that I was working at. And I was like, “Well, chapter closed. What am I going to do now? You know what’s pretty cool? Rock music. Playing guitars. I want to turn up something to 10 and play. Kick an amp over or something. That sounds great right now.”