Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Bleachers’ self-titled fourth album embraces their signature goofiness in muted vibrance


Release date: 08 March 2024
Bleachers Bleachers cover
06 March 2024, 09:00 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

Ten years since the New Jersey band’s debut, lead songwriter-producer Jack Antonoff is now undeniably at his peak.

Having won the Grammys’ Producer of the Year three years in a row – making him the second person after Babyface to achieve this feat – certainly gives him a confidence boost for doing whatever he wants. The band’s self-titled fourth album testifies to it: vigorous, sprawling, and at times moving, these fourteen songs strive to embrace their musical identity, whether successfully or not. “Modern Girl”, the apt lead single, contains a delightful Antonoff saxophone solo, comical screaming, and a silly nod to themselves. “Bleachers band, only flams!” they shout, more confident than ever.

In a way, it seems as if Bleachers is made as the soundtrack of an old-school, post–coming-of-age movie. “Isimo”, one of its highlights, would be played towards the end, after the resolution of most conflicts. “You’d been born to bleed, little soldier / But look at you, you made it out,” Antonoff sings, presumably with a triumphant smirk. This cinematic value elevates the record’s holistic appeal to a greater height and makes the shift in tone and sound in the second half more seamless and understandable; he’s entering a period of crisis after the initial ecstasy.

As the protagonist ages through these songs, the soundscape becomes looser and more scaled-back to set the stage for his retrospection. Where opener “I Am Right on Time” kicks off with the zeal of a man who’s starting fresh in the modern world, later tracks like “We Are Going to Know Each Other Forever” and “Ordinary Heaven” are drenched in melancholia. Considering how drastic the change is, those who expect the deeper cuts to be more akin to the album’s first leg are bound to be disappointed, especially when the lyrics don’t offer much depth about anything.

Bleachers would have felt more complete if their signature goofiness prominent in the upbeat production had seeped into more tracks. Despite some occasionally affecting lines, songwriting isn’t their forte; instrumentation is. Antonoff has co-produced numerous stellar records in the past (Lana Del Rey’s NFR!, Lorde’s Melodrama, St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home), and no doubt he brings those ingenious musical idiosyncrasies to his band. But with them comes a defect: things feel too familiar, and, contrary to the intended effect, their characteristic sound gets overshadowed.

Some songs have an inextricable tang of what he’s produced for other artists. “Tiny Moves” could be on the 1975’s Being Funny in a Foreign Language; “Isimo” is strongly reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s Midnights; “Hey Joe” sounds like a demystified version of Florence and the Machine’s Dance Fever. However much he contributed to the sonic construction of these, he introduced such techniques too late in his own work, because hardly any originality on Bleachers can be perceived at this point. Muted vibrance is what it can only be entitled to: fun, but without novelty.

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