ALBUM REVIEW: Bleachers // Strange Desire

by: Amy Hanna

Bleachers - SD

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Similar Artists: Capital Cities, CHVRCHES, Smallpools

When Jack Antonoff began posting photos of a studio on Instagram earlier this year, we all assumed he was hinting at a new fun. album. Little did we know what was to come; a full-length debut for a new band called Bleachers. Antonoff is front and center of this project, as he was for his former band, Steel Train, who played their last show in 2013. Of the myriad of undertakings to come from the members of fun., Bleachers’ Strange Desire proves to be the most ambitious, and most impressive.

Strange Desire starts and ends in a haze of reverberating crash beats and happy, hazy synths. Lyrically, the album falls into a cohesive theme of wild recklessness, confusion, and a love so strong and naïve that it hurts. “Wild Heart” starts the album, and as the hook kicks in, the floodgate of Antonoff’s mind opens. There is no doubt in his honesty as swelling tones and layered vocals chant for love and for his own peace of mind.

Jack’s meticulous attention to detail shines in this album’s production. The singular defining characteristic of Strange Desire is its vintage quality, which stems from old tinkling synthesizers, galactic vocal treatments, and echoed machine drum beats. “Shadow” is an impeccably engineered anthem specifically written as reassurance for anxious minds. The song builds and falls beautifully, drips with sincerity, and is incredibly resonant. Antonoff’s signature schizoid sound takes shape on many of this album’s tracks, including the melodically complex tune “You’re Still a Mystery”, which starts off with a sound bite of Antonoff repeating the spoken phrase, “I wanna be grateful for the experiences…” whirling around pulsing static.

The album includes two collaborations with two powerhouse female vocalists: the distinctive indie singer Grimes, and the legendary Yoko Ono. The former features on a track called “Take Me Away”, one of the most strikingly beautiful tracks on the record. Jack’s voice layers float airily over a grounding beat. Grimes’ vocals provide an eerie quality to the dramatic song. Her falsetto glides over instrumental drops and echoing layers. Yoko Ono’s vocals on “I’m Ready To Move On/Wild Heart Reprise” offer a similar eerie feel as she sings, “I’m ready/I’m ready/I’m ready to move on.” Meanwhile, the vocals of first track “Wild Heart” creep in, treated in crackling Moog-autotune reminiscent of Kraftwerk and Daft Punk. Antonoff utilizes a lot of vocal razzle-dazzle, but never at the cost of hiding his incredible vocal range, which shines on every track.

Through Strange Desire, Antonoff continually recalls his desire for peace and love. The two never part, holding hands through Antonoff’s shouts for reclamation (“I Wanna Get Better”, the lead single and immediate hit off the record) and his soft, sweet intonations of adoration (“Wake Me”). His lyrics are tinged melancholy, can even be a little indulgent at times, but through it all, Jack remains honest to the core. That confused happy-sadness, the unabashed want, the anthemic sing-along melodies, is youth. With Strange Desire, Antonoff created the score of rebellious youth in the summertime. Critics can chalk Strange Desire up to a “John Hughes movie soundtrack”, or maybe just a nameless album playing in the background when you kiss you first boyfriend. Whatever chord Strange Desire strikes, it is one that is indisputably real, uniquely sincere, and beautifully despondent.

For more information on Bleachers, check their links below:

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