Bleachers by Bleachers // Self-Titled Album Review

Bleachers' latest self-tilted record feels like the first page in a new chapter for the band, as well as a celebration of the people that come into your life and change everything for you forever. There is such a deep and all-encompassing love that runs throughout every song on this album, which tells such a beautiful story from beginning to end. "In my past three albums, I felt very obsessed with the past and the future. I was deeply imagining things from before and things that could happen. But somewhere along the way, I just started only thinking about right now, I don't know why. So this album feels like you're sitting in a room with me right now", Jack Antonoff told Billboard Philippines. "It's definitely a new time for Bleachers because it feels like, things are really present, and that things are exciting and opening up for us."

It takes the listener on a journey of Bleachers past, present and future in such a powerful way. I view this music as a culmination of every album they've made in the past decade, while still being very current and singular in their discography. When comparing it to the first three Bleachers albums, it is quite different on the surface and much more toned-back, but is full of sentimental musings and soft, dreamy instrumentals. It is very modern, yet still very nostalgic at the same time. I really love the way it also intricately incorporates elements of all the other bands Jack has been in through his life, from Steel Train all the way through to Red Hearse, and everything in between. Certain recurring themes flow through all of the music he makes and Bleachers is as if it is a sum of all of those parts.

Bleachers, as well as the rest of the extensive catalog of incredible music Jack has helped make, has absolutely changed my life since I discovered the band years ago. I have always seen a piece of myself in the music he has written and will always hold onto those amazing memories tied to this band. I am always finding new aspects of this album that I love with every single listen, which is something I know will continue for years to come with it. It continues to grow on me every time I hear it, a slow burn that gets better with each listen. I had the chance to hear this album early at my local record store's listening party, which was so much fun and made me so excited to be able to listen closer and really dive into every song and its meaning. I also got to hear their last album early back in summer of 2021, which was an insane once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never ever forget and will never stop talking about - (read more here!

Jack is also very well-known for his collaborations with other amazing artists, many of whom also make subtle appearances throughout the record. Lana Del Rey is a featured vocalist on one of my favorite songs, "Alma Mater", as well as Florence Welch on another favorite, "Self Respect". The music he has made with both of them over the past few years has been among some of my favorites of all time. Many other frequent collaborators that make contributions as backing vocalists, instrumentalists and/or songwriters include; St. Vincent, Sam Dew, Clairo, Claud, Matty Healy, Aaron Dessner and Sounwave. So many of these artists played a key-role in Jack's musical journey thus far and this was such a cool way to bring all of them together on one record. 

In the lead-up to the album's release Bleachers put out four singles, all of which are among the best on the track list and really showcases every direction that the music goes in for the rest of the record. The first glimpse we got into this new era of the band came with "Modern Girl", which encapsulates all that I love about Bleachers into one song. Especially their live shows, if you have ever been to a Bleachers concert before, you will know the unmatched electric energy their shows exude every single night. There is nothing else like it! "Modern Girl" is a perfect representation of that pure joy and wild energy. This song feels like an ode to the band, all of their fans and the culture of their shows in the best way. I have been lucky enough to see them perform at Radio City Music Hall in 2022 and have tickets to see them two more times this year, and I know that this is going to be an essential on every setlist for every show going forward. The bridge is one of my favorite parts of any Bleachers song ever, "I guess I'm New Jersey's finest New Yorker, unreliable reporter, pop music hoarder, some guy playin' quarters". Any of those lyrics would have made great album titles too!

The album begins with "Right On Time", which has become one of my favorite songs on the album. It sets the tone for the rest of the record in such a beautiful way, very reminiscent of the way songs like "Dream of Mickey Mantle" and "91" set up their respective albums as well. It feels like this is almost a continuation of the same story that is told on both of those songs. It makes me tear up every time I listen to those tracks and will forever be changed by them. So many songs on this album sound like an evolution of early Bleachers songs and bring so many of the lingering questions full-circle now. One of my favorite lyrics from the entire album is, "My mind is mirrors, don't know what is and what's reflection, the future's past, I'm right on time". The message of learning to let go of your regrets from the past and your fear of the future and just live for right now is so inspiring and really moved me. He ends the song with, "For once in my life, I am right on time". 

A lot of Bleachers also centers around the theme of finding the person you need at the right place and right time, and to quote a lyric from "Don't Go Dark" on their last album, finally being able to "find someone who can stand in your storm". So many of these songs evoke such a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, but are also really focused on looking for a fresh start at the same time. The second single, "Alma Mater" represents a lot of those feelings at once. The song features Lana Del Rey, who has worked on countless incredible songs with Jack over the years and "Alma Mater" is among my very favorites they've collaborated on yet. "We kept singing 'Alma Mater, fuck Balenciaga,'" he recalled in an interview with GQ. That lyric ended up becoming, "Screaming 'fuck Balenciaga', right past the Wawa", which is such a funny line. He just had this "weird little demo" for a while, before ultimately returning to it and turning it into a full song. "I just felt really called to finish it," he said. "It felt like this stream-of-consciousness song." 

"Some dreams I wake up thinking about, some dreams are meant to die", is one of my favorite lyrics from this song that is so thought-provoking. I also love the simple inclusion of Lana on this song, she adds so much to the final product and it really wouldn't be the same without her. Vocally they both sound amazing, and I love the production on this track too. I also love how atmospheric it is, "Alma Mater" feels like driving home from New York City on a summer night to me - it's such a specific feeling that I always have when I hear it. 

As always, this music is very rooted in the sounds of the East Coast, which is an aspect that has always drawn me to Jack's work and overall artistic vision. It just reminds me of home in such a specific way that I can't really find the words to describe but is something I never really felt was portrayed in music before in this way. Of course, the unmatched energies of New Jersey and New York City runs through the DNA of every single Bleachers project, but I especially love the way they are depicted throughout this album.

A story of love and shared new beginnings are at the core of this album too. "The tiniest twist of fate will come and shake you" is a lyric that best sums up that feeling, which comes from the sixth track "Tiny Moves"Bleachers is defined in every way by the all-consuming love that Jack has for his wife, actress Margaret Qualley. The way he sings about his love for her and the way she changed him for the better is really prevalent all throughout this record. Margaret really is at the heart of every single one of these songs in a really beautiful way. "Tiny Moves" is among my favorites that Bleachers has ever done for that very reason, there is so much pure, unfiltered happiness and love being expressed in it. 

"The real story there is I started writing music when I was 14 or 15, and my younger sister was sick then. She died when I was 18, so all my formative experiences with writing music were writing about this massive, heavy, big loss and grief. Then, obviously, that grief grows and changes. It's such a fertile place to write from, and I'd felt a little bit resigned, not in a comfortable way, just like, Okay, my place in life as a writer is to write about loss through the lens of age. And don't get me wrong, there’s tons of that on this album. But I met my now-wife, and it feels like a lot of the mythology and armor that I wore — we all say, like, 'I can't get relationships right,' 'I don't do this,' 'I'm bad at this.' And when you have a big shift like that, which was really meeting my person, it's brilliant and amazing, but it's also destabilizing 'cause you have to deal with all of the past, where you lived by this code that was bullshit." Jack said in an interview with Vulture, when talking about "Tiny Moves". "And within that, I found myself writing more conversationally, very deep and very intense. How do you have such a great loss and then also explore other parts of life? I wasn’t able to do that in the past, because I felt like it was not honoring my loss to write about anything else. So, this is the first album where I explore other things, and there’s presence to it that I haven't had."

The life-long pursuit of trying to process an immense loss like that is the focus of much of the music Bleachers has made thus far, and as Jack said in the above quote, that is still very much a major theme of this record too, but in a different way. "Me Before You" is especially a symbol of new beginnings, while also acknowledging the heavy path that took him to where he is now. I view "Wake Me", "Don't Go Dark" and "Me Before You" as a trilogy in a way, with such a moving progression of that story being told throughout each. "My bed was a placе for the lonely, built it that way, came to think it was holy, that was mе blue", he sings in the pre-chorus, "that was me before you". Trying to overcome childhood trauma and grief, while also learning to live a new life alongside those ever-present feelings is a key theme that is so important in understanding this album. A song like "Woke Up Today" reminds me of "Me Before You" for that reason too, with everything once being nothing but darkness, but now the morning has come and it's brighter now. "My ticket to ride, a chance to believe, that I would deserve every breath I see you breathe, but it's holy surreal and it's time to be safe, 'cause I see the whole world in you, babе," Jack sings in the chorus. Still holding onto the memory of his sister and continuing to carry that with him in this new phase of his life is articulated so well in the final pre-chorus, "How does it feel to get what you need? It's a strange kind of rush, 'cause every breath I breathe of the past is holy surreal and it's hard to hold on, oh God, it's always on my mind, my loss is always on my mind". 

One of the shining moments on this album is a song called "Isimo", which gives me chills every time I listen to it. It's one of my favorite songs he has ever written for so many reasons. Lyrically it is so moving and never fails to make me emotional when I hear it. The song is about a "childhood you will always mourn" and the emotional burden of carrying a "sentimental boulder" with you ever since. 

"Isimo" reminds me of songs like "You're On Your Own, Kid" by Taylor Swift and "Matilda" by Harry Styles in the way that they are all based around giving yourself, or someone you love, the recognition of the pain and struggles faced in childhood that was never really acknowledged by anyone else before. Often that includes never having any control of the way you were treated, but still blaming yourself for it. I think it will mean something different for each listener and everyone will take something uniquely theirs from it. "Isimo" is about finally acknowledging that the emotional weight of your past is pulling you down and it being too heavy to carry on your own anymore. This song highlights the importance letting someone in to help carry it with you. Also looking back and seeing how far you have come since then as he sings such a simple, yet powerful line, "look at you, you made it out".

"Who am I without this weight on my shoulders?" is a question that Jack asks in their last album on a song called "How Dare You Want More?" - which I view so much of this album as a reflection of that question and trying to figure out the answer to that himself. "If you drop all these things that weigh you down, you’re not you anymore. But if you carry all of them, you can’t move forward," Jack said in an interview with Genius in 2021 when talking about Take The Sadness Out of Saturday Night

This song, along with much of this album, is meant to be a love letter to his wife, Margaret. "I see marriage and partnership in a very intense way. It’s easy to share the fun stuff with someone, but will you share the really ugly parts of yourself? It’s not an attractive part of myself," Jack said in an interview with Apple Music. The final verse of "Isimo" is so powerful and is one of my favorite parts of the album. Looking at their individual experiences, all of the pain and heartache they went through when they were younger, and now carrying the weight of it together is such a beautiful way to end the song. "Honey, I can see it too, 'cause I was just a kid when they showed me this great big weight that would come and pull me, like your magnet heart and sentimental boulder, I carry it with you, throw it on my shoulders, you're the one way out and I'm your dark horse clown, Isimo, look at you, you made it out," he sings. 

Weaved throughout much of these songs also brings a lot of interesting commentary on American culture. I love the references to specific pop culture moments and often funny one-liners that are sprinkled throughout many of these tracks. Of course, there are also the heavier moments where the culture kind of shifted a bit, like "the day that Kobe fell from the sky", that are paralleled by the infamous "day that Kendall Pepsi smiled" on "Self Respect". Some of the projects Jack has worked on with other artists definitely had an evident impact on the sonic influences that make up Bleachers. Comparisons can definitely be drawn to The 1975's most recent release, Being Funny In A Foreign Languagewhich is one of my favorite albums the band has ever made and is also among the best albums that Jack has ever produced. That artistic collaboration was the perfect match for both of them. I hear small bits of that album all over Bleachers, which is just a cool way that all of this music subtly connects together. Songs like "Part of The Band", "Looking For Somebody (To Love)", and the intro track "The 1975" feel the most akin to songs like "Jesus Is Dead", "Hey Joe" and "Self Respect" in their clever lyricism and overall stylistic choices. Many follow the same theme of being a commentary on American culture, past and present, on a macro level. 

"Hey Joe" is just under two minutes long, but still manages to be so thought provoking in the way it looks back at the mess past generations have made, specifically when looking back at the Vietnam War through the lens of the experiences his dad and his friends had at the time. It is sonically so different than a lot of the other songs from Bleachers, but this classic Americana sound is a cool style to be experimenting with, especially on a song like this. "Hey Joe" fittingly also features Matty Healy on piano, along with being co-written by Aaron Dessner and featuring backing vocals from Claud. On this song Jack sings, "And now we're patiently awaiting for some light to come in, to shake the living hell out of what we became, we're frightened of the old and we're tired of the young". 

Aaron Dessner and The National's influence is also very prevalent on the ninth track called "Self Respect". It is one of my favorites from the album and one that I bet will sound even better live too. It features backing vocals from Florence Welch, which I love. Much like Lana Del Rey's feature on "Alma Mater", Florence's part is somewhat understated, but at the same time this song just wouldn't be the same without her on it. I always love to hear them collaborate, Dance Fever is such an incredible album, and this song feels very much a part of that musical narrative as well. "These days of our lives, they're rough and they're fast and unfair, and held together by a paper clasp, and they're drenched in a moment past, and they're only known when somebody is gone, well, the years move fast, but the dread goes hard", he sings. 

Another one of my favorites is "Call Me After Midnight", which originally started partially as an unfinished Brockhampton demo that was called "MARCH". It is such an unexpected source to draw from for this song, but they gave it new life in a really cool way and it's now absolutely one of the shining moments from this record. The first verse and the chorus are sung by Jack's frequent collaborator Sam Dew. He has such a great voice and he brings so much life to the chorus on this song especially. They have a side-project together, along with Sounwave, called Red Hearse, which is incredible and so underrated, so this song reminds me a lot of their debut EP from 2019. Jack recently confirmed they are working on more new music together as Red Hearse, which I am really looking forward to hearing hopefully soon! When I first heard this song at my record store's early listening party, it was an immediate favorite and I have only come to love it more with every listen since. The reference to "Wild Heart", a track off Bleachers' first album, after he sings the line, "To hell with the glories of this loneliness" is also such a cool little Easter egg incorporated into the production. 

Throughout nearly every song on this album, Jack repeatedly references being "on a wire", whether it's in "Modern Girl" when he is singing about "love on a wire", in "Call Me After Midnight" with "always walking on a wire", or being a "motherless wire" on the opening track, "Right On Time". The first thing that came to my mind when I first heard those lyrics reminded me of one of my favorite Bleachers songs ever, "Everybody Lost Somebody" when Jack sings, "It's the reason I been standing on a wire, it's this dream I keep having where I'm begging just to get myself a break". Toward the end of this record on "We're Gonna Know Each Other Forever", that is referenced again on one of my favorite lyrics of the entire album is, "Well this one's for the lonely, the tired on a wire, the born strange desired, the angel in the mirror". So much of this album builds to that message and truly feels like the thesis of this entire record. It also perfectly represents the intention behind Bleachers' music as a whole. As I mentioned earlier, losing his sister tragically at a young age has shaped so much of the music Jack has made throughout his life. "We're Gonna Know Each Other Forever" is such a deeply emotional and personal song for that reason, as it is honoring the memory of her and knowing she will always be a part of him. 

This song also references a lot of past Bleachers lyrics and brings so much of his early work full-circle, "So tell me why you left and I'll tell you why I couldn't, and how I froze in time, from the phase of letting go" reminds me of a lyric from "I Wanna Get Better", "And I've trained myself to give up on the past 'cause I froze in time between hearses and caskets". His vocal inflections come kind of unexpected at the end, but it is so powerful with the heavy emotions that are being conveyed. "Now you deserve more than a picture, or some resuscitated scripture, yeah you changed the way we move through," he sings in the final verse. "And though you're carried on the outside, you changed the way we move through". 

The final three songs on the album are so incredibly special and ties together the entire record. "Ordinary Heaven" in particular ends with a really moving spoken-word monologue from professional skateboarder Rodney Mullen, sampled from the final scene of Tony Hawk’s documentary, Until The Wheels Fall Off. A specific quote that stood out to me from it is, "But there's something inside of me propelling, that I'm not going to give up until the wheels fall off". If you listen closely, you can hear Jack repeating the words quietly in the background too. That unparalleled passion and drive behind what they do, especially when thinking of it through the lens of what Jack is doing with this music, is so inspiring and perfectly sums up to mission behind Bleachers.

That same concept follows through into the final song on the album, called "The Waiter". It reminds me so much of the closing track from Gone Now called "Foreign Girls". There are so many really beautiful lyrical moments from "The Waiter" that have really stuck with me, "You got this notion that time's gonna stop, that the winds are gonna change and tell you what you're not, but, oh, everybody's only told you what you're not and you heard too much" and "All of these dreams, you wrote them up, so when you cry like you do you still know what you ignored, you can cry what you want, but that floor's still the floor" are among the two that I was really struck by when I heard them. This is a really beautiful way to end the album and a great reminder of the importance behind living life with a brighter outlook, even though you know that the darkness can come again, but that's okay. It is such a powerful moment of introspection and brings so much resolution to the story being told throughout this record. 

This is an album that I know I will be listening to years from now and still finding new bits of it that stand-out to me. The lyrical depth and the powerful story of love and new beginnings being told on this album is so important and moving. It feels like such a celebration of the past ten years of this band, while still being very forward focused on what is coming next. As I said in the beginning, this feels like a new chapter for the band and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them!

The memories I have with Bleachers music is endless, and I can't wait to see all of the memories I will make with this new album! I have written in the past about some of my favorite days ever, including when I had the incredible experience of meeting Jack Antonoff at Electric Lady Studios in 2021 and when I saw Bleachers live for the first time at Radio City Music Hall in 2022. Many more related posts are also linked below, which I would love for you to check out! I have many more coming soon throughout the rest of this year, including seeing Bleachers live in Asbury Park, NJ and their biggest show yet at Madison Square Garden! It's going to be amazing, and I hope you'll come back soon to read all about it!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Bleachers self-titled album*, I would really appreciate if you would do so through my affiliate link*, which I may earn a commission from. Their music is among some of my very favorites in my entire collection and I'm sure the same will soon be for you too! Shop more Bleachers music here!*

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! Bleachers forever! 🍅

-Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: Bleachers, Dirty Hit, Alex Lockett

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