Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Image: Bleachers’ Self-Titled Album Cover

If you’re in any way familiar with the work of Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey or Clairo, odds are that by proxy, you’ve heard the work of Jack Antonoff. Arguably the music industry’s most in-demand producer, he has won ten GRAMMY Awards, while having been nominated for a whopping 24. Most recently, Antonoff took home the honors for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) and Album of the Year for his work on mega-star Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” (2022) at the 66th annual GRAMMY awards show. This is all to say that Jack Antonoff is a musical savant, with an intimate understanding of how the medium moves us on the deepest, most guttural level. For a decade now, his artistic outfit has been Bleachers, a band of his design which has now released four studio albums. Earlier this month, the group delivered “Bleachers” (2024), their highly anticipated self-titled production. It is, seemingly, an album of incompatible extremes. Groovy yet introspective, uplifting yet somber, these clashing tones work because of each other rather than in spite of each other. In this landmark album, Antonoff and Bleachers create a record that inspects the past, present and future to provide a forward-looking perspective on the messy intricacies of our collective human experience. Let’s take a closer look. 

The album opens with “I Am Right On Time,” an endearing, soulful track that depicts time as an all-encompassing, ever-present and influential aspect of life. When something ends, it’s never truly over. It’s in this way that the song conveys our view of the world as inherently nostalgic. Our perspectives are indelibly framed within the bounds of what we know to be acceptable and desirable, notions learned from a young age. Bearing this in mind, Antonoff seems to assert here that no one truly knows more than anyone else. “I was just a kid, born from another,” he sings, implying that everyone, even our trusted and esteemed parents, inexorably carry a level of innocence and ignorance. This is not taken as a negative, however; if time is as flimsy and relatively unimportant as the track seems to suggest, then a life well lived is one unconcerned with its unavoidable presence. To realize this, that nothing can ever happen “too soon” or “too late,” is to find a sense of peace. As such, the track ends on a beautifully uplifting note: “For once in my life, I am right on time.” 

“Modern Girl,” the record’s second song, is, simply put, an absolute jam. Opening up with the punchy, rollercoaster-esque saxophone of Evan Smith, a GRAMMY Award winner in his own right, “Modern Girl” quickly kicks in with its anthemic, tempo-pushing lyrics. The track is a sing-along, head-nodding bop reminiscent of Antonoff’s biggest influence, fellow New Jerseyian Bruce Springsteen. This song’s stripped-down sound contributes fabulously to its tone and intention, espousing ideas of what a relationship in our fast-paced, hectic society feels like. “So kiss me on the cheek, make it a long goodbye,” the band chants, affirming that the moments you wish could last forever seem to pass in an instant. 

Third in the lineup on “Bleachers” is “Jesus Is Dead,” a slick and groovy commentary on what it feels like to live in a world you no longer recognize. “Jesus is dead and so’s New York,” Antonoff sings, melodramatically reminiscing upon the music scene he grew up with, one which has come and gone in the many years since. Despite the idea of times gone by being a potentially somber one, a speedy drumset and twitchy bassline ensure that the track never dips into melancholy. Furthermore, the lyrical outlook is begrudgingly self-effacing and accepting, with Antonoff ready to “Grease the wheels, pull the arrow back.” As the cherry on top, Evan Smith kicks in near the end for a ballistic saxophone solo, bringing the track to an energetic and forward-looking conclusion. 

Sixth on the tracklist, “Tiny Moves” is an emphatically sweet, pop-y tune told from a deeply personal perspective. An unabashedly pure and simple love song at its thematic core, “Tiny Moves” distinguishes itself as a musical gem in its execution. The use of a violin gives the song a beautiful, classically romantic tilt, ingeniously interwoven with the synthy, plucky instrumental. Impressively, it works in complete, unexpected unison with Antonoff’s characteristic highly-produced style. Not to mention, astute listeners may be able to pick out Clairo on the track’s background vocals. Lyrically, “Tiny Moves” conveys how your special someone can profoundly impact your world in the best way possible. “The tiniest moves you make, watchin’ the whole world shake, watchin’ my whole world change,” goes the chorus, perfectly encapsulating those moments when the look in someone’s eye knocks down all the walls of what you thought was possible. “A tiny twist of fate will come and shake you,” the track elaborates, aware of how one small decision can lead to your entire perspective being fundamentally changed by one wonderful person. 

These tracks are only a handful of the 14 featured on the full album, which may very well be Bleachers’ best yet. The selection I’ve detailed is by no means a “best-of” list; rather, it’s the songs I believe to be most central to the record’s overall themes and tone. The rest of the tracks are equally innovative, creative, groovy and emotional. If what you’ve read here interests you in any way, I could not recommend “Bleachers,” or the rest of the band’s discography —  for that matter — enough. Antonoff’s work is experimental and cutting-edge but deeply personal and introspective at the same time, a modus operandi that best displayed on his newest album. It is fitting that such a momentous achievement in the band’s journey is a self-titled project. “Bleachers” is an album that will connect with everyone who listens to it in a unique and  profoundly emotional way. No matter who you are, it provides an earnest and uplifting perspective on life, love and the future. None of these things are easy or painless, but on “Isimo,” Antonoff assures us of our hardest days and the strength we all possess to carry on. “Look at you, you made it out,” he sings. We have, and we will. 

 


Carlo Constantine is a second-year Political Science major. CC1031591@wcupa.edu

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