There are albums that you enjoy, that you listen to multiple times immediately after they are released and encourage your friends to listen to. There are albums created by musicians that you’ll support on tour and see the live show, you’ll post a tweet or a boomerang of the show and that’ll be that. But there are also albums that you feel are so poignant in your life in the specific moment that they are released that will become staples in your music library for the rest of your life.
A few of those albums for me are Fearless by Taylor Swift, Absent Sounds by From Indian Lakes, and Pure Heroine by Lorde. The newest album to be added to this beautiful collection of music is most definitely Gone Now, the sophomore album from Bleachers, fronted by Jack Antonoff and follows up his debut release of Strange Desire, released in 2014, just about 35 months ago.
If you’re unaware, Jack Antonoff is a veteran of the music industry. He’s worked with powerhouses like Taylor Swift, Lorde, Sia and Banks (just to name a FEW). After his stint in his band, Steel Train (active from 2002 through 2013), Jack continued his music career by playing lead guitarist in the indie pop band fun., known for their smash hit “We Are Young.” The band has been on hiatus since 2015, as Antonoff and lead singer, Nate Ruess, explore other careers in music.
Like I said above, there are albums that you enjoy and there are albums that will forever be embedded in the person that you become for the rest of your life, and a heavy statement like makes me believe that those album deserve all of the recognition in the world.
Bleachers’ debut album, Strange Desire, was released quite awhile back in July of 2014, and became the soundtrack of many people’s summers – mine included. While songs like “I Wanna Get Better,” and “Like a River Runs” had heavy lyrics about loss and death, other songs explored the excitement of love, new relationships and the promise of the unknown. It’s safe to say that this album came to be in a particularly exciting part of my life: I was only nineteen years old, fresh out of my first year in college and halfway deep into one of the best summers of my life. It doesn’t help that I was in love and in a relationship that (seemed) promising to my future.
Strange Desire was created during a carefree, optimistic time in my life where I could see my future folded out and ready in front of me – and I was prepared to take that on with full force. I heard so much of these messages embedded into the choruses and bridges of so many songs on that album – and it continuously made me feel as though Antonoff and I were in similar stages of our lives – ready to tackle new challenges with a fearlessness that was almost naive but simultaneously so self-aware. As I waited nearly three years for the next chapter of Bleachers, I hoped that Antonoff’s experiences in life were going to match mine as I finished college and embarked on the attempt of a stable, adult life.
The first time I listened to “Don’t Take the Money” I was ridiculously hungover and was hating myself for it. I had completely forgotten that the song was even going to be released and the realization gave me a sudden boost of energy to listen to it as soon as possible. The song, jam packed with the John Hughes, Breakfast Club, 80s hits vibes that made Strange Desire such a smash knockout: basically everything that made a Bleachers song a Bleachers song. The song’s meaning can be dissected quite easily from this post by Jack that he posted on Instagram the day of the song’s release.
“Don’t take the money is the front door to this house. It’s a big strange house but this is how i believe it should be entered. DTTM is something i say in my head a lot. It’s not about actual money. It’s about following a light. a gut feeling. Not following a deep gut feeling destroys your art and the people around you. So i say it in my head constantly. sometimes about something very specific relating to music, sometimes about a bigger question about marriage or depression :):). Point is, it’s become my phrase to stay on track. Specifically in don’t take the money i’m taking about my relationship. verses go through the past, pre is an explosive fight and the chorus is that moment when you hit rock bottom and everything is clear.“
“Don’t Take the Money” is most definitely one of my favorite songs on the album – and it was exciting to see it released as the single and identified as a cohesive track to sum up the album as a whole. Once Gone Now was released in its entirety, it’s safe to say that I had not prepared for what I was about to listen to.
The album opens with “Dream of Mickey Mantle,” a name that I embarrassingly admit that I had to Google (an American baseball player who died in 1995). The song sounds like it’s a backdrop to a movie and all I can picture in my head is a bunch of teenage boys riding their bikes down a street in a nameless neighborhood in an even more bland suburb of some midwest town. It gives you the feeling that something bigger is coming – an introduction into the rest of the album, and where Antonoff’s head is at in 2017.
“One foot out and I know the weight is coming / Because I left it by the bed last night
Open my eyes and I stare and pray for light / Always one foot out when you say goodbye to the one that you love“
Another one that hits home for me is the next track on the album: “Goodmorning,” a tune that reminisces about the familiarity of the people who shaped your childhood – and the heaviness that comes with the realization that things aren’t the same.
“Good morning to the cops / Good morning to my upstairs neighbor / And to the kids at 42 / Anyone who lent me a favor / I wish that I could stop / Now I wish that I could live a little safer / I’m watching all of the nights go blue / Anyone who lent me a favor soon / Woke up in the corner store / Someone saying my name / Everybody moving around/ Acting like nothing had changed/ But something had changed in me”
The song’s themes of saying goodbye continues in the tracks “Goodbye” (which was an odd but good choice to be included in the album because it sounds so much like “Goodmorning” and “I’m Ready to Move On/Mickey Mantle Reprise,” which is the second to last track on the album.
While these themes of love, nostalgia and that continuous feeling of needing to “go home,” are woven into every track on this album. My good friend Leah – who saw Bleachers with me at Lollapalooza 2014 and wanted a shoutout for jamming with me in the pouring rain – asked me if she was the only one who felt like the entire album is a love letter to Antonoff’s longtime girlfriend Lena Dunham. I said no, she wasn’t the only one and that I agreed with her. Despite these confessions of love, nothing quite hits home for me as much as “Everybody’s Lost Somebody” does.
Antonoff has been very open throughout his career about sharing the struggles he has faced after his sister passed away from brain cancer when he was a teenager and how it has shaped his outlook on life as well as his songwriting. These struggles are evident in the track, he sings about trying to “get back home soon” although he can’t stop noticing the strangers around him as he comes to the term that “Everybody’s lost somebody” and that he has “survive and gotta give himself a break” with not being able to fully come to terms with the death of a loved one and constantly feeling as though he should feel a specific way about the loss.
This song was so dear to me immediately after hearing it for the first time because of my personal experience with loss. I lost my best friend when I was 12 years old and although she was not a family member, she may as well have been – and not a day goes by, nor a life accomplishment goes by, without wishing that she could be here with me – and how I’ve learned to live with what had happened, it’s not really ever going to be something I can just “get over,” even though, like Antonoff, I know that everyone goes through these feelings. These connections that Antonoff can make with his listeners, his ability to be vulnerable through his songwriting is what his fans appreciate to their core – and I most definitely know that this is something that will continue even further into his career.
Some other noteworthy tracks are the Carly Rae Jepsen vibing “Let’s Get Married,” where that love letter to Dunham concept comes in, and the ever relatable “I Miss Those Days,” a track about longing for the past, even though most of us were lost during those days (I can’t help but relate to this to my high school days and the ease of having a routine, having the same friends, driving the same car, even though I constantly felt confused and out of place as a teenager).
Strange Desire was encapsulated into my memory as a soundtrack to my fearlessness, youthful and romantic moments in my life as a nineteen year old, and Gone Now makes me look back (and forward) in a more focused, series view on what it means to live life through feelings of loss, optimism, confusion and love. To be able to say that I have matured and changed as a person and have been able to see that in two different albums is more than I could ever ask from the music experience and I hope that Antonoff can see that his development as an artist has created something special for his fans. Having such an important body of work to help break down my emotions is scary, but essential to how I want to live my life.