Review Summary: Perhaps the fullest-sounding and most charismatic indie-pop album you’ll hear this year, just in time to become the defining sound of your summer.
Upon listening to Bleachers’ debut, Strange Desire
, it’s difficult to believe that this is a one man band. Jack Antonoff, the lead guitarist of the ever famous indie-pop group Fun., slowly put the album together while on tour – but has made a point of stating that he intends to remain a part of the band for as much of the foreseeable future as possible. On his solo debut, Antonoff has commented, "I spent the past year working on the music but not talking about it, and eventually it became this psychotic alter-ego situation, where it was second nature to have this part of me that no one knew about. Except for a small group of people, most of which happened to be members of my immediate family, no one was aware that this music, or this album even existed ... even though it existed so deeply to me." The reason I say it is surprising, though, is because Strange Desire
sounds nothing like a piecemealed first-time effort – it sounds more like a full-scale, multi-million dollar recording. It’s one of those few larger-than-life albums that doesn’t feel cheapened by its pursuit of fame, and it is primed to clear-cut its way into the hearts of indie, rock, and pop fans alike.
The album’s first half is highlighted by some of the most epic-sounding pop anthems of the year. ‘Wild Heart’ kicks things off with purposeful, echoing drum beats that seem to ripple through the fibers of time – as if what is approaching is the most important thing that anyone will ever hear. Antonoff’s tribal-like vocals lend it a sense of authenticity, and the line “to think everyone must die…for anything to matter” proves that he isn’t content with shallow lyrics. ‘Roller Coaster’ and ‘I Wanna Get Better’ are the two big ticket items here, serving as likely singles and rightfully so. The former sounds like it was transposed straight out of the 80’s, with a steady danceable beat and a chorus that is even catchier than what the word itself implies. The latter delivers a great deal of variety, beginning with manic keyboarding before Antonoff’s best Springsteen impression descends upon the verses, leading into an earnest chorus of “I didn’t know I was lonely ‘til I saw your face…didn’t know I was broken ‘til I wanted to change.” Honestly, it’s everything The Killers wish they could be (don’t throw in the towel yet, though, Mr. Flowers!) It’s different. It’s upbeat, anthemic, sweeping, and memorable. Bleachers could have dispersed these few tracks across the entire album and said check mate, but thankfully there’s a whole hell of a lot more to this album than a handful of impressive singles.
Amidst the fervent display of energy and personality, subtler gems like ‘Wake Me’ round Strange Desire
out quite nicely. On the same record in which Antonoff gleefully exclaims “you’re such a rollercoaster!”, he also works in some sensitive crooning in the form of a love ballad. “I can’t believe I captured your heart…I’d rather be sad with you than with any other girls but you” he professes, overtop of an ebb-and-flow beat akin to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, but different enough to not draw suspicion. It’s simple and pretty – but it works. ‘Reckless Love’ is another track that flies under the radar, drawing comparisons vocally to The National’s Matt Berninger (which is a good thing). The percussion is heavily electronic, and the synthesizers that enter the mix towards the middle of the track combine with a soaring chorus of oohh
’s to create one of the most weightless sounding mid-tempo songs on the album. ‘Take Me Away’ completes the trifecta of great mid-album finds, with guest vocals from Grimes on what has to be considered the most electronically influenced song here. At times, Antonoff and Grimes sound like they are slowly descending into the ocean, and at other times it sounds like they are shouting as far as their voices will carry across a vast canyon. Once again, it’s not the most technically or instrumentally amazing effort, but the production value can’t be underestimated as it provides Strange Desire
with its cornerstone “atmospheric” song.
Oftentimes, albums of the pop nature are front-loaded with the best tracks, but that’s not the case with Bleachers’ debut. There’s an equally effective mix of thrilling, hands-in-the-air anthemic songs and quieter, more reserved moments during the second half (of course the word reserved
is a relative term here, where everything shoots for the stars). ‘Like A River Runs’ is a case of the aforementioned star-shooting, bursting at the seams with vigor and gradually building to a pinnacle of a chorus that shouts “When I fall asleep I can see your face, what I lost in you I will not replace / I could run away I could let them down, but I will remember your light.” Strange Desire
’s pair of closing tracks show the other side of the coin. ‘I’m Ready To Move On / Wild Heart Reprise’ commences with classical piano notes and a warming female vocal contribution of “I’m ready to move on”, before the track eventually falls off the deep end into a pool of hyper electronic keyboarding and echoed reprises of both ‘Wild Heart’ and ‘Reckless Love.’ Strange Desire
closes things out on a rather unexpected note, as the entire latter portion of the song features a slow, jazzy guitar solo on an album that is largely missing that type of contribution. Perhaps it just goes to show that for all of the different styles incorporated on this album, Bleachers still has some tricks up its sleeve for future endeavors.
is certainly an album that will take the airwaves by storm. However, that doesn’t mean that it is somehow lacking
from an artistic or musical standpoint. Imminent popularity is not always the result of recycled formulas and clichés, and if anything, Bleachers proves that here. This isn’t an album that will probe your deepest thoughts, but it will
make you want to experience life in the best way possible. Strange Desire
is perhaps the fullest-sounding and most charismatic indie-pop album you’ll hear this year, just in time to become the defining sound of your summer. It would be best not to miss out.