When Jack Antonoff started Bleachers, writing songs in hotel rooms while on tour with fun. he openly admits he didn’t really know what he was doing. Despite that, debut album ‘Strange Desire’’s emotional, open approach and his ability to craft gigantic pop songs made him a cult star. Second album ‘Gone Now’ finds him more experienced, more confident, more in-demand and poised for very big things.
‘Strange Desire’ was largely motivated by a need to tell the story of losing his 13-year-old sister to brain cancer when he was 18. Loss is still a big subject he deals with, but here it’s integrated in a more multi-dimensional way, exploring not just the sorrow and bereft feeling that follows, but also how those experiences shape you as a person. On this album Antonoff celebrates good times and bad.
He says as much on ‘I Miss Those Days’. “I know I was lost, but I miss those days,” he sings before a saxophone cheerily cuts through chiming bells. The verses detail late teenage years touring in punk bands or days spent in his childhood bedroom – times he considers to be the ones that formed him. You can’t have highs without also having lows, after all.
In that way, ‘Gone Now’ is also an ode to the resilience of the human spirit. On ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’, another sax-driven gem, its creator veers into a spoken word verse in which he urges himself “Come on motherfucker, you survived / You’ve just gotta give yourself a break!” It’s a euphoric moment that captures that sense of invincibility when you realise you’ve made it out of the woods. Lead single ‘Don’t Take The Money’ views a similar hardiness through the lens of a relationship. Its pre-chorus depicts a flaming row, but the chorus itself is what keeps the couple caught up in it together. “You steal the air out of my lungs / You make me feel it,” Antonoff sings. “Your hand forever’s all I want.” His words make for a beautiful summation of the push and pull of human emotion.
On ‘Strange Desire’, Antonoff excelled in making epic pop songs – the kind that could make even the tiniest of dive bars feel like a cavernous stadium. ‘Gone Now’ shows he hasn’t lost that knack, but he also explores a subtler, more keenly focused approach. ‘Good Morning’ is a brilliantly disorientating piece of piano-pop, sounds flying from one ear to the other. ‘All My Heroes Got Tired’, meanwhile, is perhaps the most minimal Bleachers track in existence. It slowly builds from a needling synth line and hushed vocals to a huge surge of sound, like a plane readying itself for that ear-popping takeoff, but never quite lifting off the runway.
Despite the rest of Antonoff’s accolades – working with Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and most recently on new album ‘Melodrama’ – ‘Gone Now’ proves he should be recognised as more than a writing partner or producer to the stars, but one of the stars himself.