Reviews, Music

8th March 2024

Bleachers release fourth studio album, ‘Bleachers’ | Review

Bleachers have just released their fourth studio album, self-titled Bleachers via label Dirty Hit. After releasing the first single Modern Girl in September 2023 most recently the single Me Before You in February 2024. The album is highly anticipated by Bleachers fans and the general public alike. Jack Antonoff, the man behind the stage name Bleachers is both a songwriter and producer. He has collaborated with many successful artists including Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Diana Ross, and Florence & The Machine. Having won his tenth Grammy this year for Producer of the Year, there were high expectations from music industry insiders in anticipation for the album. These expectations seem to have already been met, as the album has received praise from several influential critics.

Grief and Modern Living

Following his sister’s death in 2001, Antonoff’s previous three albums have often served as a homage to her, but Bleachers takes a new angle on this grief and explores the idea of tribute living, of ‘fly[ing] into the future so hard because someone else couldn’t.’ Having also opened himself up to love after meeting his now-wife Margaret Qualley, the album explores the joys and difficulties of living life to the fullest. This is undercut by a sharp commentary on the digital age we are living in and Antonoff’s place in that.

The exterior world we live in is often examined and held in relation to Antonoff’s interior world, as he explores questions such as ‘Why did Kobe Bryant die? Why did my sister die? Why did Kendall Jenner do that commercial?’, reflecting the ludicrous nature of our society that contains so many contradictions and still expects people to be perfect within it. 

The album itself feels like a study of the complexities and contradictions of modern life, of reminiscing on your past but also appreciating your present. Antonoff tackles various themes such as the perils of modern love, existential crises, observing and appreciating how someone (presumably Margaret Qualley) has changed his life, nostalgia for a hometown, isolation and fatigue with society. The album is at times dark and moody but has bursts of light within it such as I am Right on Time, Modern Girl and Tiny Moves, and the overall tone of the album feels wistful but not necessarily overtly melancholy.

Jack Antonoff has self-described his New Jersey sound as ‘so sad, so hopeful, so aspirational, so broken all at once’, which is certainly reflected in the complex and diverse range of themes and sounds explored from track to track within the album. 

Existential Crises and Honesty

Photo Credit: Alex Lockett

Antonoff’s lyrics consistently catch his audience off guard, swinging from vague tangents in Alma Mater singing ‘Fuck Balenciaga’, to sharp personal insights on We Are Going To Know Each Other Forever when he sings ‘tell me why you left and I’ll tell you why I couldn’t’. Playing with jovial lyrics about a Friday night that then cut whiplash-style to the effects of generational toxic masculinity or other existential crises, Bleachers is certain to catch listeners off-guard in the best way, which Antonoff has acknowledged is his aim when creating music- to surprise both listeners and himself.

A consistent theme within this album is his honesty and openness when it comes to discussing his love with Margaret Qualley, diverting from the songs on his previous albums which discussed unstable relationships or self-isolation as a form of self-preservation. Ending the album with the words ‘You’ve seen too much’, Antonoff leaves his listeners almost on a cliffhanger after taking us through the whirlwind that is his interior and exterior life, leaving listeners feeling almost as though they have intruded, but also hungry for more. 

Photo Credit: Alex Lockett

Musicality and Production

The album is full of signature guitar riffs, jovial saxophones, echoing vocals and humid synth-pop. The other musicians featuring on this album such as Sean Hutchinson and Michael Riddleberger on percussion, Zem Audu and Evan Smith on the sax, and all involved in the music engineering of the album, are pervasive throughout pop culture despite all listeners not necessarily being aware of them, as they have worked on albums by artists such as Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and St Vincent. Their sound is rich and recognisable and yet never boring, as amidst their familiar synth-pop/rock, there are also interjections of Beatles-esque acoustic guitar tracks, gospel-like interludes, and We Are Going To Know Each Other Forever even displays country influences in its sound and production.

The sonic mix of the album is reflected by Anotnoff’s aim for the album to ‘take on the bizarre sensory contradictions of modern life’, whilst also being a homage to the members of his band as several of them are name-dropped within the album, which is a clear defining of the band’s personal and original sound, hence the self-titled nature of the album. 

After the release of Bleachers, the band will embark on their sold-out ‘From The Studio To The Stage’ tour across the UK in March, followed by their US leg in May and June supported by Samia. This includes performing for the sixth time at Jack Antonoff’s New Jersey music festival, the Shadow Of The City Festival. This festival raises money for the Ally Coalition, a non-profit that Antonoff runs with his family that supports other charities and groups aiming to better the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. Later in the year, Bleachers will perform at the ever-popular Reading and Leeds Festival in August, finishing their round of success for the summer there. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Bleachers album is worth the three-year wait, as it is evident within the album the growth that Antonoff has experienced during this time. There is a new emotional openness making his lyrics more raw and hard-hitting, but also his period of musical experimentation and continuing to work with a range of artists and styles is demonstrated, as while Bleachers still contains all of the band’s signature elements and sounds, it has a new edge and variety to it that is distinctive to this album. Immediately picking you up in the first song I Am Right On Time, pulling you through a flurry of soundscapes, themes and emotions before dropping you abruptly on your head in the last song The Waiter, Bleachers is certified to be a hit album and a cornerstone in Antonoff’s career. 

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Header Image – Bleachers Album Art