Loneliness and despair never felt so welcoming.
Jack Antonoff has a sense for the most direct path to a feeling.
It can come about through his grumbly way of singing through his verses, the cliché-sounding phrases he makes feel fresh, or the pure bombastic energy he seems to find in musical expression. Suffice to say, Antonoff is a pure pop machine.
His 2014 debut as Bleachers, Strange Desire, was an energetic surge of held over teenage rebellion—uneven as it was. With Gone Now, Antonoff tightens his focus, loosens his grip, and floors it to make a bona fide classic.
Gone Now feels like a mixtape from a hormone-addled boy to the girl of his dreams, which is appropriate since it is a love album at its core. Antonoff’s willingness to dive right into the complicated, scary teenage-strength feelings we all sometimes have and play them back to us makes his music at all turns cathartic and revitalizing.
Album opener, “Dream of Mickey Mantle”, is a cinematic joy: a memory of an old bedroom with its memorabilia holding the highs and lows of youth into your head as you hop into a car and leave it all behind.
“Hate That You Know Me” is a perfect example of what I think a Bleachers song is. The lyrics sound embarrassing to say aloud, and even hearing them brings a cringe of unwanted recognition, but the music directly confronts that feeling, and it makes it feel like the most normal, natural thing a person could experience.
“Everybody Lost Somebody” follows in this vein and cuts straight to the feelings Antonoff is interested in. Its refrain becomes a thesis for this album overall and the song itself an all-timer.
“All My Heroes” and “Let’s Get Married”, follow up “Everybody Lost Somebody” to create a strong centerpiece for Gone Now. “All My Heroes” feels like Blood Orange mixed a classic David Bowie anthem, and its focus on self-reliance in the face of others letting you down transitions right into the reckless love-blinded vibe of “Let’s Get Married.”
“Let’s Get Married” is easily my favorite on this album. It’s messy as hell, co-dependency writ large, and it doesn’t give a fuck.
The back half of Gone Now directly explores love, but it doesn’t feel like a significant tonal change from the first half. Feelings of love, happiness, and freedom are inextricably linked to things like despair, loneliness, and loss.
Skimming the surface of Bleachers’ music, it’s easy to think of it as pulpy pop celebrating the good, but what’s celebrated here is the pure act of feeling. It’s the typical corny teenage idea, a desire not just to be happy but to go out and feel all that life has to give you, though that doesn’t make it any less true.
Gone Now ends with, “I’m Ready To Move On/Mickey Mantle Reprise,” summing together all of the songs and themes presented in the album before “Foreign Girls.” The two songs build off “I Miss Those Days,” promising both that it gets better and that it never really goes away, but it’s all ok because we kind of grow up.
There will always be parts of life we’re ashamed of, but what if we weren’t so embarrassed of our flaws and anxieties, and our reliance on things cliché and corny to express it? There’s power in that liminal zone we all secretly inhabit, love in the despair, connection in the universal loneliness.
And its pop’s power to trace the lines of this liminal zone and show us the many faces who stand beside us. When it comes to this, Bleachers unabashedly bursts ahead of its contemporaries.