The Music Moment: Bleachers’ Self-Titled Album

3 mins read

Grade: B-

Last Friday, Bleachers, the indie pop-rock band led by producer and songwriter Jack Antonoff, released its fourth studio album. Given the record’s self-titled nature, there was anticipation that the album would be career-defining for Antonoff’s band; however not much stands out, as the rock-influenced band continues to reference New Jersey and New York over Bleachers’ classic saxophones and double-edged vocal effects. Thematically, Bleachers delves into the idea of “simple love” as opposed to simple sadness and angst but with lyrics that continue to fail to show ingenuity. 

“I Am Right On Time” kicks off the record on a high note. Antonoff sings, “Pour me a glass and I’ll tell you ’bout our war-torn born and raised dumb,” bringing the listener in to do just that. The track’s pacing builds up to a punchy chorus, and the harmony of the synths, guitar, and skillful vocal manipulation is captivating.

In a shift of genre, “Modern Girl” calls back the band’s traditional indie rock style with a catchy, warm melody. The groovy saxophone, played by band member Evan Smith, makes its first emergence here. The fun song meddles with deeper themes about gender roles, but its lyrical simplicity winds up disappointingly mindless: “All the modern girls / Shakin’ their ass tonight.”

“Jesus Is Dead” dwells on the death of New York’s music culture. Through references to the city’s 2000s indie music scene, on-theme production including percussion, and a matter-of-fact tone, Antonoff revitalizes it.

“Me Before You,” the best of the four pre-released singles, embraces intimacy and authenticity through stripped-down vocals and mellow production as Antonoff begins his assertion of love.

“Alma Mater” begins with a casual recording, placing the listener in the studio with Antonoff and regular collaborator Lana Del Rey. The song accomplishes the album’s goal, powerfully reflecting the beauty of simple love and life. The song’s double-entendre title proves to be one of the most lyrically clever moments on the album. The pair sings, “She’s my alma mater,” referring to the phrase’s original Latin translation of someone who provides nourishment and later, “We drive past my alma mater,” referring to one’s former school.

Margaret Qualley, Jack Antonoff, married, music video, Tiny Moves

“Tiny Moves”—which comes to life in its music video starring Antonoff’s wife Margaret Qualley—is a shift from the prior songs’ sad hues, exhibiting the album’s happier, love-sick mood as Qualley’s tiny moves make his “whole world shake.” “Isimo”—referring to Qualley’s private Instagram handle, isimolady, as a nickname—continues where the previous track left off, with Antonoff singing about him and his muse’s rough childhoods: “Isimo, look at you, you made it out.”

The acoustic “Woke Up Today” features stripped-back guitar as Antonoff continues to profess his newfound love. By this point, the album’s theme becomes redundant, and this track fails to bring anything new to the table. 

“Self Respect” best represents the sound Antonoff is known for, along with his hollow attempts at introspective lyricism. He conveys the divide between his personal and public life but interrupts with references like, “The day Kobe fell from the sky,” and, “The day that Kendall Pepsi-smiled,” which, while attempting to be absurdly quirky, feels absurdly disconnected. Also, Florence Welch’s (Florence and the Machine) dreamy feature on the chorus should have been explored further in the track’s verses.

“Hey Joe” marks new territory for Bleachers as Antonoff sings in Sprechgesang-style talk-singing. The track, about his father, nonchalantly addresses heavy themes like the Vietnam War.

“Call Me After Midnight,” featuring Sam Dew, derives from a BROCKHAMPTON demo titled “MARCH,” but ultimately takes the original song’s chorus and little else, leading to disappointment from fans expecting something similar to “MARCH.” On its own, the track is catchy, and a reminder of Antonoff and Dew’s 2019 project, Red Hearse. 

In the ballad, “We Are Going to Know Each Other Forever,” surprisingly profound lyrics about loss like “Did it debase us to hold on? /This one’s for the lonely /The tired on a wire /The born, strange, desired,” are ultimately overshadowed by unnecessary twang and vocal distortion.

“Ordinary Heaven” ties the themes and production of the album together as the track builds in sound throughout. Antonoff reveals he “long[s] for ordinary heaven,” which for him is just to be a witness to his lover. It closes with a sample of professional skater Rodney Mullen’s monologue from Tony Hawk’s documentary: “I’m not numb to the pain / I would argue I’m more conscious of it than anybody else… / My guess is that we’re all built the same.” While the monologue fits with the song, its placement in the album leaves it feeling unoriginal and lacking voice.

“The Waiter,” the album’s closer, feels sonically and thematically disconnected from the preceding thirteen tracks. While intense vocal distortion on an Antonoff-produced piece is inevitable, here, it takes away from the track’s poetic lyricism. The brief, undistorted moments are sonically nostalgic and satisfying and should have never been drowned out.

While being sonically broad allows Bleachers to continue to appease a variety of musical tastes, the album lacks a defining style, creating a disconnected listening experience. The themes of Bleachers are not fully explored; it’s clear that Antonoff has become infatuated with an ordinary heaven.

Celeste is a junior in her second year of journalism. She is the co-writer of the weekly column Bears Doing Big Things, featuring alumni. She also is a copy-editor and manages the publication's Spanish translations and social media. She enjoys covering issues affecting the M-A community through features and writing Bear Bites about local restaurants. Her story on La Biscotteria was recognized as a top-10 NSPA Blog Post of 2023.

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