Album Review: Bleachers, ‘Strange Desire’

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When I first heard Jack Antonoff sing four years ago, I felt this unexplainable connection to him as both a musician and person. I’m not sure if it is they way he sings with so much emotion or his visceral lyrics, but whenever I listen to his work with Steel Train, I always feel like he’s singing exactly what I’m thinking and feeling at that given moment. Though he’s produced exceptional work with fun. and other artists, I haven’t felt that same attachment. This all changed once I listened to Strange Desire, the debut for Antonoff’s newest venture Bleachers.

While Strange Desire is very different from anything Antonoff has ever done, what brings back this connection I felt with Steel Train is the tone. Like Steel Train’s self-titled, this album consists of fun, synth-pop songs that masquerade feelings of anxiety, loss, and sorrow. However, what’s interesting about this album is that Antonoff is also expressing a willingness to move forward from the past. Many of Antonoff’s listeners like myself will be able to relate to tracks like “Wake Me, “Take Me Away,” and the first single “I Want To Get Better” as they convey vulnerability, but also hope and the desire to recover.

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Though the tone was consistent to Antonoff’s projects of the past, what makes Strange Desire so distinct is the ‘80s influence. There were so many elements from ’80s pop rock that most of the time I felt like I was watching a Brat Pack movie or listening to an old Bruce Springsteen record. These characteristics were most evident with “You’re Still a Mystery,” “Shadow,” “Rollercoaster,” and “Wild Heart,” however every track really incorporated the over-the-top chord progressions, the catchy melodies, and the youthful ambiance. I can’t fault Antonoff for going in this direction as it is fairly unconventional from the synth-based mainstream pop music of today.

If I had to choose two tracks that I would change, it would be “I’m Ready to Move On/Wild Heart Reprise” and “Who I Want You To Love.” I wouldn’t necessarily remove them from the album or change anything sonically, I just felt they were misplaced. “I’m Ready to Move On/Wild Heart Reprise” would have been more effective mid-way through the album and “Who I Want You to Love” is just not memorable enough to cap out the album. I know it seems like the order of the tracks is nit-picky but I think if it was reworked, those tracks would feel less abstract and more consistent with rest of the album.

For the last six months, I have been boasting St. Vincent’s self-titled as the best album of 2014, but now that I’ve heard Strange Desire, I want to take back my previous statements. Antonoff truly produced an incredible record and I hope he continues exploring his feelings through this project for years to come.

Related Articles:

Interview: Jack Antonoff of Bleachers (Al Mannarino)

Album Review: St. Vincent, ‘St. Vincent’ (Lauren Stern)

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As the Managing Editor, Lauren Stern is responsible for curating Pop-Break.com’s content. This includes managing the editorial staff, coordinating the content calendar, and assigning publishing dates and deadlines. She graduated Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Philosophy. She spends her free time searching for the best gluten-free food in the Tri-State area, playing with her dogs, and reading an insane amount of books. She tweets constantly about pop culture and social issues and hopes you follow her musings @laurenpstern.